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This afternoon we participated in a media conference call with Treasury Secretary Ray LaHood and Deputy Director of the National Economic Council Jason Furman arranged for Midwest reporters by the White House Media Affairs Office. The subject was the economic stimulus bill. Secretary LaHood spoke from his prepared remarks for about six minutes and then, with Jason Furman, took questions from media participants for almost another twenty minutes.

Amy Brundage, Midwest Communications Director, White House: Hi everyone, this is Amy Brundage. I’m the Midwest Communications Director here at the White House. Thanks to everybody who took the time to join us today. And for those of you who I haven’t spoken with yet I look forward to getting to know you over the course of our time here. I am very, very pleased today to be joined by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood who is on the line with us and who will be speaking about an American, exeuse me, an economic recovery and reinvestment plan. And we also have Jason Furman who is our Deputy Director of the National Economic Council here at the White House, who is on as well. So with that I will turn the call over to Secretary LaHood and we will take some questions after the opening remarks…

Transportattion Secretary Ray LaHood: Thank you Amy and thanks to all of you for joining us. I’m, I’m here at the Department of Transportation and I’m pleased to give you sort of a, as much information as we possibly can. It’s no secret that the economy is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. And the President has called for unprecedented action. And the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan will immediately jump start [job] creation and foster long term economic growth. The plan will create over three to four million jobs over the next two years. Every economist and analyst that the President has spoken to has confirmed that the recovery plan will meet this goal. And the job goal is to create and arrange, create jobs in a range of industries from clean energy to health care with over ninety per cent in the private sector.

In addition to essential investments designed to create and save jobs in the near term, the plan addresses long neglected needs that are critical to laying the foundation for a robust and sustainable 21st century economy.

A key component of the plan is enacting the largest investment in America’s roads, bridges, transit lines since the creation of the interstate system. The goal is to help jump start the economy by getting money out the door for projects that are ready to go. Projects that have met the environmental standards, projects that have gone through all the necessary paperwork so that people can begin working this Spring, Summer and Fall.

At my direction we’ve already set up, within the Department of Transportation, a multi-mode economic recovery team that will make sure that the economic recovery monies for transportation are spent rapidly, legally, and wisely. The team, as we’re calling it – the “tiger” team – Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, will also be developing common reporting standards and tracking the highway, road, bridge, transit, rail, aviation and intermodal investments directed by the economic recovery act. Also, I have asked all fifty state secretaries of transportation to come to Washington next Mon…, excuse me, next Wednesday, next Wednesday to tell them “this is what we want”. We want transparency, accountability, we’re going to do things by the book, and we’re looking for ready to go projects that can get started right away.

So you’ll be able to click on the web site – http://www.recovery.gov – and see where the dollars are spent, and which cities and towns the money is going to, and for which projects. And we’re going to do it without earmarks. The President has made that clear. This is a bill for project ready investments.

Under the plan over a hundred billion will be invested in roads, bridges, mass transit, flood control, and clean water projects and ninety five per cent of American workers will get a tax cut. The plan will get funds out quickly, and at least seventy five per cent of the package spending out in the first eighteen months after passage.

By including fast spending provisions like tax cuts for middle class Americans and families, measures to avoid state health care cuts, and temporary expansion of unemployment insurance, food stamps, and health care for the unemployed workers the package will spend out at least seventy five per cent of the total commitment within the first eighteen months after passage. The administration will work with Congress to refine the package to insure that it meets this seventy five per cent goal.

Critics have focused on a hand full of projects and programs that represent less than half of one per cent of the bill’s cost. While in almost every case these programs have merit and serve an important public purpose, the President has made clear that they do not meet the stimulus test they shou…, if they should not be included in the bill. And the President has made that clear in, in every instance that I know of.

This is an important time in our country’s history and an important time to invest wisely for the sake of our children and our children’s children. I’m proud to be at, a pivotal role in this and I also want to say just a couple illustrations providing, making work, paid, tax cut of up to a thousand to, for four million eight hundred ninety workers and their families in Illinois. The plan will make a down payment on the President’s “making work” tax cuts for ninety per cent of workers and their families – designed to pay out immediately in worker’s pay checks, creating or saving a hundred and fifteen thousand seven hundred jobs over the next two years in Michigan. Jobs created will be in a range of industries, again, from clean energy to health care with over ninety per cent in the private sector. And I guess I’ll leave it at that with those two examples. We have other examples and Amy I don’t know if we should take questions now or if there’s anything else you want to say.

Amy Brundage: Oh I think that’s great Secretary, thank you very much. With that we will open it up for a few questions…

The Show Me Progress corporate headquarters transcription elves will work diligently over the next few days to finish the transcript of the remainder of the conference call. We’ll post that material as it is completed.