- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A group of mostly Democratic governors yesterday said President Bush did not embrace their call for including road and transportation projects in a future economic-stimulus package.

But the White House was careful not to close the door on the idea or the prospect of a second package.

“I think I can summarize his remarks best by saying he didn’t think he would be interested,” said Gov. Christine Gregoire, Washington Democrat. “He wants to see the results of the stimulus package that was just passed.”

Congress and the White House, anxious to revive the faltering economy, moved quickly this month to approve a $157 billion stimulus deal that will give rebate checks of between $300 and $1,200 to taxpayers, as well as tax rebates to businesses.

“The president … had an open mind when he listened to [the governors], but he did say he was very concerned about any proposal that would raise taxes,” said White House press secretary Dana Perino.

U.S. governors were in the nation’s capital yesterday for the National Governors Association annual winter meeting and met with Mr. Bush after a state dinner at the White House on Sunday evening.

Govs. Edward G. Rendell, Pennsylvania Democrat; Arnold Schwarzenegger, California Republican; Eliot Spitzer, New York Democrat, and Mrs. Gregoire are leading the calls for road and transportation spending to be included in a future stimulus package.

The Senate already plans to take up this week what some Democrats are calling a second stimulus package that will focus on softening the effects of the current housing slump.

A Senate leadership aide said there will be “additional efforts to come.”

Mrs. Perino, before the president’s meeting with the governors, said infrastructure projects are “not a stimulative way to get the economy going.”

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota Republican, said that road projects do provide jobs to local economies, but that they don’t bring the quick results needed.

“It’s helpful in the intermediate term,” Mr. Pawlenty said. “In terms of an immediate boost, there’s a lag time between when those things get approved and we actually get dirt moving.”

But Mr. Rendell, speaking to reporters at the White House after the governor’s meeting with Mr. Bush, said many states have done the necessary preparation on infrastructure projects so that they could result in an immediate boost.

“There are a lot of projects in every state where the architectural design has been done, where literally they’re ready to tap into the ground and begin construction,” Mr. Rendell said.

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