Will states be fast, wise with stimulus?

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi applauds during a news conference with Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.)and Transportation Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. after the economic stimulus bill was passed.

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Kai Ryssdal: The congressional speed-walk through the stimulus bill continues. The House approved the plan today, the Senate's voting tonight. Washington is shoveling $787 billion into the economy. It's trying to do so quickly, with a minimum of waste. But are the two mutually exclusive? Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer reports.


Nancy Marshall Genzer: To get the money out the door as quickly as possible, Congress is requiring governors to allocate some of their stimulus dollars within 45 days. That's a tall order. Neither state nor federal government agencies are designed for speed. States say they do have some projects that are ready to go. Karen Harbert says there is a way to speed things up for not-so-ready projects. Harbert is a former senior Energy Department official, now lobbying for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Karen Harbert: The federal process, the states process are going to have to come together and find ways to streamline these projects through the very complicated and cumbersome regulatory process.

But Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense says, there is a place for government regulation. It can weed out waste. Which brings us to the second half of the stimulus spending equation -- can overburdened government agencies spend the money quickly, and well?

Steve Ellis: These agencies are going to be strapped to try to move the money out quickly and efficiently. And in a lot of cases, it isn't going to happen.

But Economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research says it has to happen. He says the whole point of the stimulus package is to spend the money, even if there is a little waste.

Dean Baker: Not spending the money, in a certain sense, would be more wasteful than spending it on something bad, because we're going to end up with just a higher unemployment rate.

Congress is concerned about accountability. Lawmakers have budgeted extra money for federal agencies' inspector generals. They're the taxpayers' watchdogs.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

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