- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cities need stimulus, Trenton mayor says

One of the most persistent voices in the call for increased federal dollars for struggling cities is Trenton, N.J., Mayor Douglas H. Palmer, who has been in the nation’s capital on many occasions this year to push for Main Street America.

Mr. Palmer, a former president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors who was in the city for President Obama’s inauguration, has been in the forefront of cities pushing Congress for green jobs and climate-change legislation. He testified before a Senate panel in support of energy-efficiency block grants in July and earlier this fall was one of the mayors who met with Lawrence H. Summers, director of Mr. Obama’s National Economic Council. Last week, Mr. Palmer was in Washington again - this time giving the keynote address at the Economic Policy Institute’s panel discussion on the fiscal challenges facing local governments.

He said Thursday that there can be no national economic recovery unless cities and urban areas - which account for 86 percent of all jobs and 90 percent of labor income and gross domestic product - recover. Mr. Palmer also cited unemployment numbers in several cities that are higher than the U.S. rate of 10.2 percent. Trenton’s is 17 percent, and the District’s is 11.9 percent.

Mr. Palmer said that while the states are receiving federal recovery act funds directly, cities continue to struggle.

Mayors want Congress to pass a Targeted Fiscal Assistance program for local governments. The federal funds would be used to spur job creation and sustain federally funded programs such as the police-hiring initiative, among other things.

“Every day in the cities of America,” Mr. Palmer said, “mayors see the faces and hear the cries of people desperate for work, begging for a job, struggling for self-sufficiency and self-reliance. All we can say is, hear our people like you heard the banks. Hear our small businesses like you heard AIG. Hear the cries of Main Street like you heard from Wall Street.”

Will taxman come anew?

Several District-based organizations, including the National Council of La Raza, AFL-CIO and Center for Community Change, are urging President Obama and Congress to institute a new tax to help cities like Washington and other urban areas that are bleeding red because of high unemployment. They say cities need job growth and the nation needs a new revenue stream - now.

A tax on large financial transactions, such as stocks and futures trades, could aid a jobs initiative, the organizations said in a Nov. 16 statement that also proposes other steps, including continued jobless benefits and credit for small- and medium-size businesses.

“These initiatives will cost money, and we will need to tolerate higher deficits in the next few years,” the statement says. “However, a jobs initiative can be coupled with a revenue stream, such as a financial transactions tax, that can take effect in the third year and more than pay for these efforts over a 10-year period.

Democratic leaders in the House say such a tax is on the table.

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