Getting No Respect: Is the Recovery Act the Rodney Dangerfield of Politics?

Thursday, April 28, 2011 at 10:02 PM by

A recent “watchdog” column in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel examines a political controversy over who should get credit for some new jobs that are planned at a manufacturing plant in Altoona. Quoting from the column, “Walker recently took credit in a widely reported press conference for creating 125 jobs at a state manufacturing plant, even though then-Gov. Jim Doyle announced the same new jobs back in December.” The column examines the arguments and counterarguments of the Walker Administration and former Doyle Administration officials regarding which governor should get credit for the 125 jobs, without coming to a definitive conclusion.

Almost lost in the debate is that the jobs are supported at least partly by a bond program created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). News reports indicate that Curt Manufacturing benefited from $11 million in Recovery Zone Economic Development Bonds, a temporary economic tool that allowed state and local governments to issue bonds to finance projects with economic development outcomes. The issuer receives a subsidy of 45% of the interest cost from the federal government, which lowers the cost of financing.

Altoona isn’t the only community that has benefitted from these bonds. Racine County was one of the first governments in the country to issue the bonds, and used the proceeds from its $4.3 million issuance to make improvements to its nursing home, parks, highways, courthouse, and other county facilities. Waukesha County issued $9.0 million in these Recovery bonds to help upgrade county buildings, other public work projects, and county-wide technology projects. Other local governments used their allocation for similar projects.

The Recovery Act has had a wide range of positive effects, many of which have been below the radar; few people seem to have any inkling of how it has pumped hundreds of billions of dollars into the U.S. economy. Like Rodney Dangerfield, the Recovery Act gets no respect. For more information on how ARRA has benefited WI, you can check out resources on the Wisconsin Budget Project website related to the Recovery Act.

Jon Peacock and Tamarine Cornelius

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