Bartlett says Washington should waive local match on road projects

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(Host) Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Susan Bartlett has a plan that she says could pump tens of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs into the Vermont economy.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Bartlett says her proposal is simple. She wants the federal government to temporarily waive all local and state matching costs for a variety of programs, including road and bridge repairs and the construction of water treatment facilities.

Typically, the federal government requires a 10 to 20 percent match for many of these projects. But Bartlett says the state doesn’t have the resources to take full advantage of the federal funds.

(Bartlett) “If you turn loose those federal dollars to build it’s going to happen all over the state. There are infrastructure issues that ultimately help with long term economic development. There’s the short term benefit of all these contractors and all these suppliers and all these workers having jobs being able to look at and say, `Wow we’ve got work for a couple of years.’ I think it would be a tremendous economic stimulus.”

(Kinzel) Bartlett is hoping that Congress will consider her plan as part of a second economic stimulus package that will be reviewed in a lame duck session in the middle of next month.

(Bartlett) “It’s saying to the federal government: `We aren’t asking you for more money. We know you have money problems too. Just get this requirement out of the way and let’s turn the states loose.’"

(Kinzel) Congressman Peter Welch says he’s enthusiastic about this approach.

(Welch) “I think it’s a great idea. So, I’m going to push it. If a stimulus package is necessary, and people think it is, then you want to get that money into the system as quickly as possible. And roads and bridges need repair. That’s a way to create good jobs and have lasting value. So I think it’s a common sense, practical Vermont idea and I’m going to promote it."

(Kinzel) Bartlett says that using only federal money for these programs means that some lower priority projects probably won’t get built for many years. But she says the benefits of her plan far outweigh this concern.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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