Sanders: Congress will act quickly to pass stimulus package

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(Host) Senator Bernie Sanders says Congress will act quickly in January to pass a massive economic stimulus package.

But Sanders isn’t sure if the federal money will come soon enough to help Vermont avert painful budget cuts.

VPR’s John Dillon has more:

(Dillon) The Vermont Legislature faces the tough task of cutting programs or raising taxes as it deals with a budget deficit that could top $200 million.

Some lawmakers say they should hold off making huge cuts because Washington will soon come through with a stimulus package to help the states.

Sanders says he’s been in touch with Governor Jim Douglas and legislative leaders. He says Congress will act quickly when it returns next month.

(Sanders) "I’m not going to give the governor or the Legislature advice. What I will say is it will be very, very important for the Legislature to be watching what happens in Washington because there’s no question that there will be significant sums of money coming into the state of Vermont and 49 other states."

(Host) Sanders said the federal package will include money for transportation infrastructure projects, broadband development and the Medicaid health care program.

(Sanders) "I think the work you’re going to see immediately is the largest economic recovery program since the Great Depression. My view is it should be at least $400 billion dollars a year for two years. I suspect that is somewhat in the vicinity of what President-elect Obama is in fact thinking."

(Host) Sanders says his priorities for the new Congress include investigating the financial institutions that caused the economic meltdown.

(Sanders) "Those who are responsible for this horror show that has cost us trillions of dollars must be held accountable for their actions. And we must also understand how we got into this disaster in the first place. Most importantly we must build a new financial system, which discourages short term and reckless profiteering and re-establishes proper government safeguards."

(Dillon) At a news conference, Sanders focused on domestic issues facing Congress and the new administration.

However, he touched briefly on the outbreak of war in Gaza. He said the Palestinian group Hamas broke the cease fire with Israel. But Sanders said the tragedy was compounded when Israel responded with an aggressive bombing campaign.

Sanders faulted the Bush Administration for failing over eight years to help negotiate a peace agreement in the Middle East.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Burlington.

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