Maine delegation backs special session for stimulus

Posted Oct. 19, 2008, at 9:28 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6:17 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s congressional delegation says the economy needs a further stimulus, and supports the move to reconvene in November to consider several proposals to accomplish that goal.

“There are some things that we should do,” Democratic 2nd District Rep. Mike Michaud said last week in an interview. “People are hurting and we are in a recession.”

He agreed with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., that this Congress should reconvene after the Nov. 4 election and consider several proposals to both stimulate the economy and help with recovering from the certain recession.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, had a similar view.

“The underpinnings of our economy are so in peril I think it is essential the Congress reconvene after the election and pass a package,” she said in an interview. “I think we have to have something in place and not wait until January.”

Maine’s 1st District Rep. Tom Allen, a Democrat, said in an interview that it is clear House leadership is going to seek action on a second stimulus package in November, a step he supports.

“This can’t wait,” he said.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in an interview that Congress should be in session now considering a stimulus package that addresses several areas.

“I think we should also be dealing with a reform of the regulation of the financial markets,” she said. “There is much to do, and we should be doing it now.”

Michaud said that at a minimum the measure should take steps that both provide some immediate stimulus and help over a longer period to grow the economy out of the recession.

“I have talked with Chairman [Rep. James] Oberstar [D-Minn.] about providing states the funds for road and bridge projects ready to go,” he said. “Those projects create jobs and will help the long-term infrastructure needs to build a strong economy.”

Michaud serves on the House Transportation Committee.

Allen agreed that funding for long-needed public works projects should be part of the package. He said states are facing revenue problems from the economic downturn and are deferring needed projects.

“You can slow down an economy pretty quickly if state and local governments stop repairing roads and bridges and don’t engage in those basic infrastructure projects that everyone considers to be a responsibility of government,” Allen said.

Snowe said hearings held earlier this year by the Senate Finance Committee, on which she serves, laid out a series of steps she believes Congress should adopt. She said that while Congress passed a 13-week extension of federally funded unemployment benefits this summer, many recipients will start seeing those benefits run out.

She also wants a broadening of eligibility for the food stamp program and increased funds to the states by increasing the Medicaid matching rate to help ease the loss of revenue states are experiencing.

Collins said that while it is clear such measures would give an “immediate boost” to the economy, Congress also should look at longer-term needs. She agreed funding to help the states should be part of the package.

“I support a $50 billion measure to pay for needed infrastructure projects that are ready to go in all the states,” she said, “and we certainly have needs here in Maine.”

Michaud said Congress also should look at some of the “good ideas” coming from both major presidential candidates. He said a proposal by Sen. John McCain, D-Ariz., to suspend the requirement that individuals start withdrawing money from their retirement accounts at age 70½, which could force them to take losses in today’s market, has merit and should be considered.

“We need to take the best ideas wherever they come from and pass them,” Snowe said. “People need help, not more partisan battles.”

Both Snowe and Michaud expressed concern about the cost of a second stimulus package and suggested there are “offsets” that could be used to pay for at least part of the package.

“We had several offsets ready in the rescue bill we passed, but unfortunately, we could not get them considered in the United States Senate,” Snowe said. For example, “there are several tax breaks on the books for the oil companies, and it’s clear they don’t need them.”

Congress passed a $168 billion stimulus package last February, backed by President Bush, which sent out rebate checks of up to $600 to individuals and $1,200 to couples. The House passed a second $61 billion economic aid plan last month, but it failed in the Senate after Republican senators opposed it and Bush threatened to veto it.

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