Friday, February 13, 2009

U.S. House stimulus bill keeps arts funding

Also Sen. Collins on why she supported Coburn amendment

The federal stimulus bill, which was just approved by the U.S. House, includes $50 million for the National Endowment of the Arts, Americans for the Arts reports. The nonprofit arts advocacy group, which based in Washington and New York, also states that Sen. Coburn's amendment to the bill, which would have prevented stimulus spending from funding the arts, has been removed. Americans for the Arts says:
“Just moments ago, the U.S. House of Representatives approved their final version of the Economic Recovery bill by a vote of 246-183. We can now confirm that the package DOES include $50 million in direct support for arts jobs through National Endowment for the Arts grants. We are also happy to report that the exclusionary Coburn Amendment language banning certain arts groups from receiving any other economic recovery funds has also been successfully removed. Tonight the Senate is scheduled to have their final vote, and President Obama plans to sign the bill on Monday - President's Day.”
Also, Senator Susan Collins (left) of Maine just responded to my Feb. 6 request for an explanation about her support for Coburn’s amendment to the Senate version of the bill, which would have prohibited funding in the proposed federal stimulus bill from being used for community parks, museums, theaters, zoos, aquariums and art centers. Her response, which I’ve pasted in its entirety below, makes no mention of Coburn, the arts, parks, museums, etc.
Dear Mr. Cook:

Thank you for contacting me with your views regarding the economic stimulus package. I appreciate your taking the time to do so.

Our nation is in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis. We have witnessed the collapse of the housing market, the unraveling of our nation's financial institutions, and the evaporation of trillions of dollars that have been invested in the stock market and other retirement and investment funds. I have heard from far too many Mainers who have had to delay their retirement plans because they no longer have the nest egg for which they worked so hard.

Every day, we hear more reports of massive job losses in communities all across America, and Maine is no exception. Our state's unemployment rate has risen to seven percent, the highest level in 16 years.

I agree with many economists that it is critical that Congress pass an economic stimulus bill to boost the economy and create jobs. Earlier versions of the House and Senate economic stimulus bills were, however, far too expensive and bloated. These versions also included too many provisions that may well be worthwhile, but are more appropriately funded in a regular appropriations bill. That is why I joined with Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) and a group of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, including Senator Olympia Snowe, to craft a compromise bill. As a result of our hard work and weeks of negotiations, a group of Democrats and Republicans working together were able to reach a compromise on a more fiscally responsible economic stimulus plan that will cost $100 billion less than previous versions considered by the House and Senate.

While this bill is by no means perfect, it will go a long way toward creating jobs and addressing the dire economic challenges faced by our nation.

It is estimated that this bill will create or save 3.5 million jobs in Maine and nationwide over the next two years. Much of this bill will fund transportation, energy and other infrastructure projects that will result in job creation. It includes a temporary increase in federal Medicaid dollars, which will bring $470 million for Maine over the next 27 months. And it provides a significant funding increase for the Pell Grant program, special education funding, and a State Stabilization fund to help states deal with their serious budget shortfalls.

The bill also includes crucial tax relief for low and middle-income families, tax incentives for small businesses, and an increase in safety net programs, as well as funding for energy efficiency and alternative energy development programs.

Given the substantial investment the federal government is making in this stimulus, it is critical that the taxpayers' money be spent properly. It is for this reason I have pushed throughout the negotiations for measures to ensure the money is wisely spent, including additional funding for agency Inspectors General, the Government Accountability Office, and the creation of a "Recovery Act Transparency Board." As Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, I, along with the Committee's Chairman will soon hold the first Committee hearing on safeguards to protect against waste, fraud, and mismanagement and to ensure accountability and transparency.

Again, thank you for contacting me. This bill will go a long way toward creating jobs and addressing the dire economic crisis faced by our nation.


Susan M. Collins
United States Senator


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