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Stimulus Law ‘Definitely a Lifeline’

By Kathy Gurchiek  2/20/2009
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When governors across the nation gather in Washington, D.C., in February 2009 for their annual winter meeting, they will hear recommendations on how they can create economic growth and efficiency with funds from the $789 billion stimulus law, says John Thomasian, director of the Center for Best Practices at the National Governors Association.

“It is definitely a lifeline,” he said of the stimulus package, “but you are going to see continued budget difficulties over the next two or three years.” He predicted “fairly dire straits for states throughout 2009, 2010 and 2011” and the need for them to continue to “tighten their belts” over the coming years.

“The stimulus law will have made that less worse, but it will still be there,” Thomasian said during a National Press Club “Newsmakers” panel.

 “Perhaps calling it a stimulus bill is inappropriate to some extent because a lot of things in the bill create the foundation for long-run economic growth. They create opportunities,” particularly in health information technology, research and development, alternative energy and broadband build-out funds, Thomasian said.

The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) sees opportunities for U.S. job creation and retention through investment in health information technology and broadband networks, according to a paper the group distributed at a webcast held at the National Press Club at the same time.

“Spurring investments in IT infrastructure not only can provide an important short-term boost to the U.S. economy, it also can lay the groundwork for long-term growth, international competitiveness and significant improvement in Americans’ quality of life,” Robert D. Atkinson, Daniel Castro and Stephen J. Ezell write in The Digital Road to Recovery: A Stimulus Plan to Create Jobs, Boost Productivity and Revitalize America.

They estimate that “a stimulus package that spurs or supports $10 billion of investment in one year in broadband networks” would support about 498,000 new or retained U.S. jobs for one year.

Using stimulus funds for broadband spending “will take some careful planning and partnership, probably with the private sector” to do it right, Thomasian said; he recommended that states create a lead coordination team and counsel with extensive expertise in transparency and accountability.

Overall, governors will need to “develop an aggressive outreach strategy” with input from the public and private sector and local governments, and they must have a sophisticated presence on the web to let citizens know where and how the money is being spent, Thomasian said.

“This is an unprecedented flow of funds to states through almost an unprecedented number of spigots, and the requirement for governors to make sure all that money is flowing in the right direction to achieve a common purpose is going to be tough. … The work begins now to see that it’s spent well.”

Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for HR News. She can be reached at

Related Articles:

Stimulus Bill Extends TARP Limits on Executive Compensation, SHRM Online Compensation & Benefits Discipline, February 2009

Economic Stimulus Bill Includes Wide-Ranging HR-Related Provisions, HR News, Jan. 29, 2009

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