Thursday, February 12, 2009

Senator Collins: Tough on Schools

The need to get over the 60-vote hurdle in the Senate has yielded a compromise stimulus bill that keeps the alternative minimum tax patch (relatively ineffective) added by the Senate, while reducing two effective measures from the House version: aid to states and school construction funding.

It is a sad irony that all the rhetoric decrying government waste will result in cuts in services that had already met the test of being decided worthy priorities by state governments. Furthermore, though critics of the original bill posed as defenders of future generations, the reduction in investment in education today will mean a less productive economy in the future.

But Senator Collins made a point:
Two major sticking points heading into final negotiations were the increased Medicaid payments to states and nearly $20 billion in school construction funding, both top priorities for House Democrats and the White House. But Collins, in particular, opposed creating a separate federal program for school construction, and the Senate bill she helped negotiate included no school-construction provision.

Instead, Senate Republicans agreed to increase a general state fund to $54 billion, a portion of which could be spent rebuilding schools. "We hung tough," Collins said.

That's up from $39 billion in the Senate bill, but down from $79 billion, plus $20 billion separately for school construction in the House bill. That's bad for the economy, but Senator Collins knows that such "Hangin' Tough" makes her a winner in Washington - nobody would mistake her for a new kid on the block.

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