For many people the $787 billion federal stimulus program is merely an abstract concept that has not shown itself in any real way to the average individual. When the law passed, President Obama said there would be “an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability.”
According to MSNBC, the government’s own website is at www.recovery.gov, where the president promises “every American can go online and see how their money is being spent.” Recovery.gov, which is operated by the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board and relies on data reported by recipients of Recovery Act funds, has been widely criticized as inaccurate and poorly presented.
Another popular site for tracking stimulus data is www.recovery.org created by Onvia.com, a Seattle-based firm that uses public records to gather and publish information on government jobs, for sale to contractors.
Much of the stimulus package is being spent on programs such as unemployment benefits and Medicaid, but hundreds of billions will go toward contracts, grants and loans to restore bidges and roads.
Just how is this type of spending working out in Connecticut? According to Onvia, of the $665.1 million being spent in the state on contract work, New Haven and Fairfield counties are leading the way. By far the largest project being paid for with stimulus money is the reconstruction of the Route 1 Amtrack bridge in New Haven County at $73 million. That’s followed by the New Haven Rail Yard project at $30 million.
Connecticut’s list of projects seems fairly routine when compared to others around the country. According to MSNBC and Onvia, the National Park Service is offering somewhere between $5,000 and $25,000 to a contractor who can install a “bat-compatible gate” in Great Basin National Park, Nevada. The gate will keep humans out of an old mine while preserving access for the six species of bats that live there. Interested bidders should know that the 8-by-8-foot gate needs to be built 57 feet inside the mine in Lincoln Canyon. The job site is 2.2 miles and a 1,000-foot elevation gain from the nearest dirt road.
Pfizer employees and the business community in New London are rightly concerned about news that the company is moving about 1,5000 jobs across the river to Groton as part of a corporate merger. Company officials say the jobs will stay but anytime the term “merger” is used, people start to panic. Meanwhile, New London is pretty much the jilted bride at the altar. It was just 10 years ago that Pfizer spent nearly $300 million on its New London waterfront headquarters.
The pending loss of the New London campus could also complicate the city’s effort to redevelop the Fort Trumbull area. Those efforts,of course, led to the city’s seizure of private homes through eminent domain and a battle that ended with US Supreme Court decision in the city’s favor. One wonders what Suzette Kelo is thinking now.
What if (now lame duck) Gov. Rell called a special session of the legislature and nobody came? Actually, they would have to come, they just don’t have to do anything. That may very well be the case if the governor calls the state House and Senate into session to act on her latest deficit mitigation plan. State Comptroller Nancy Wyman says the state’s budget is more than $624 million in deficit already (they just passed it a little more than two months ago). The governor says she will call a special session. But while she has that power under the state Constitution, she has no authority to make them act.
The hang-up is that Democrats, who control both the House and Senate, say the governor has not yet implemented spending cuts called for in the existing budget and those cuts must be part of her new plan if they are to act on any more. The visual of lawmakers hanging around, doing nothing is not a good one for the public…in an election year.