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Pace of stimulus spending plummets
“In this day when major construction projects require extensive environmental reviews, observance of clean water act measures and other permitting requirements, the insistence on ‘shovel ready’ as the criterion for projects limits work to paving and other minimal restoration and preservation projects,” the state Transportation Department said in a lengthy response to Mr. Oberstar.
Ms. Oxhorn signaled that states will have to figure out their spending on their own.
“We know that a number of factors account for the pace of state action. Our responsibility is to get the federal efforts moving as quickly as possible, and with over 7,000 transportation projects approved, we are proud of that effort,” she said.
There are various ways of measuring stimulus spending. The Obama administration says it prefers judging by the amount of money obligated because that covers projects under way, which is the point at which a jobs-producing project can begin.
But even using the amount of money actually paid out, the pace of spending has slowed in recent weeks. The weekly average over the past four weeks is $3.2 billion, while the average for the previous four months was $3.6 billion per week, with a high of $9.4 billion paid out in the first week of May.
The Agriculture Department has boosted spending 11.9 percent in the most recent data. The Interior Department, the Homeland Security Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development also have made major jumps in spending obligations.
The Health and Human Services and Education departments, which have larger budgets, have made only modest increases in spending in the past several weeks. Neither has reported more than a 1.5 percent jump on a week-to-week basis since big jumps in early July.
The Transportation Department has increased spending steadily between 2 percent and 5 percent since that time.
Economists say the economy appears to be recovering without much help from the $787 billion spending package.
“In my view, the recession is coming to an end. The bad news, however, is that the government stimulus did not have a lot to do with the recovery,” said Barry P. Bosworth, a senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution.
Joining him on a panel discussion at Brookings, Chris Zimmerman, a member of the Arlington County Board, said the money to local governments is being siphoned through the states, which slows the process. Until that formula changes, he said, the flow of money will continue to lag.
Ms. Paige at Citizens Against Government Waste said the silver lining to the slower spending is that it could mean the government decides to forgo spending hundreds of billions of dollars still in the pipeline.
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