Douglas in D.C. pitching for bailout for states

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas was in Washington today pitching to get federal bailout money for Vermont and other states.

Sara Sciammacco reports.

(Sciammacco) After meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Governor Douglas faced reporters on Capitol Hill.

Douglas was selling his ideas for an economic stimulus package. He is calling on Congress to draft a bill that includes more money for Medicaid, unemployment benefits, transportation and water projects. Douglas says federal help is needed for a rebound.

(Douglas) "Economists across the political spectrum have made it clear that counter-cyclical spending by the federal government can accelerate the recovery.”

(Sciammacco) Vermont is one of 43 states facing a budget shortfall. Douglas says he reduced spending by 4 percent this year, and is working to cut it by another 3 percent.

(Douglas) "States are not just coming to Washington with our hands out. We are taking action at the state level to reduce our levels of spending to live within our means."

(Sciammacco) Douglas says the bad economy has increased demand for state services, while revenues have declined. Douglas met with Pelosi, but not with Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy.

Leahy says state officials could start fixing problems now.

(Leahy) "I’d like to bring in a lot more into infrastructure. We have roads and bridges that are in bad shape in Vermont. They have a lot of money in their highway trust fund. I wish they’d start spending more of it.”

(Sciammacco) Leahy is helping to write separate legislation to give Vermont a boost to improve roads and bridges. In the meantime, Douglas and other governors will meet with President-elect Barack Obama in Philadelphia on Tuesday. Obama has said he will tackle the economic crisis as soon as he takes office.

From Capitol News Connection, I’m Sara Sciammacco for VPR news.

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