Saturday, 2:15 PM
Patrick presents delegation with $4.74 billion wish list
By Matt Viser, Globe Staff
Governor Deval Patrick met this morning with members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation to strategize over how to secure – and then spend – hundreds of millions of federal dollars that could flow into the state early next year.
US Representative Edward Markey
During the hourlong meeting, Patrick provided to the delegation a list that includes $4.74 billion in projects that could be ready to start within six months. The list, which does not rank the projects or indicate how much the state ultimately expects to receive, includes $1.5 billion for municipal projects, $448 million to fix school buildings, $548 million for improving energy infrastructure, $782 million for transportation projects, $629 million for state-owned buildings.
“We’re your team,” US Representative Edward Markey told Patrick at the beginning of the meeting, before it was closed to the press. “We need your guidance, your leadership, to let us know how you want this package structured so it will benefit Massachusetts to the maximum extent possible.”
The meeting brought eight of the state’s 10 congressional members to the corner office of the State House, with Congressmen Barney Frank, a Newton Democrat, and John Olver, an Amherst Democrat, attending via a conference call.
Patrick is scheduled to meet later today with municipal leaders to discuss the prospects of a federal stimulus package. He is also expected this afternoon to discuss scaled-back plans for the state’s capital spending, even as state leaders seek federal money.
With states across the country confronting large budget cuts, governors are hoping to reap federal dollars for public works projects that could provide jobs and stimulate local economies. The federal stimulus bill is estimated to total between $500 billion and $1 trillion.
“Help is on the way from the federal government,” said US Representative Jim McGovern, a Worcester Democrat. “This is a work in progress, but we are confident when all is said and done this will be much-needed help for the people of Massachusetts.”
While it is still unclear how much Massachusetts could receive, state officials have already compiled a list of dozens of projects across the state, including repairing roads, bridges, and public buildings. This list divides projects into those that could begin within six months, and those that could begin within two years.
“I was surprised that the governor already had a list of projects that are ready to go,” said US Representative Stephen Lynch, a South Boston Democrat. “Every city and town would like to have some type of relief, and they’ll get it to certain degrees. But there are some projects already teed up and ready to go, and that’s where we want the resources to go.”
Members of the congressional delegation said they didn’t worry that the Big Dig, lampooned for being long delayed and over-budget, would hurt the state's chances of getting federal money for public works projects. But several said the project would play into how the money would be doled out in Massachusetts.
“There were many good projects across the state that were held up because of the Big Dig,” said US Representative Richard Neal, a Springfield Democrat. “Those of us who represent central and western Massachusetts wanted assurance that this would be an initiative that would treat the 351 cities and towns across the Commonwealth equally. …There’s a bigger state out there than Boston.”
Patrick has emerged as a key player as states scramble to win the burst of federal aid, trying to mobilize other governors to help the Obama administration craft a stimulus package for the states.
Patrick, along with Governor Jim Doyle of Wisconsin, last week met in Washington with Rahm Emanuel, the chief of staff for President-elect Barack Obama. They also met with several of the president-elect's economic advisers and with US Representative David R. Obey, a Wisconsin Democrat and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Obama has said he wants to help state governments as part of a federal stimulus package he wants to sign shortly after taking office on Jan. 20.