Stimulus bill faces opposition

Published 9:36 pm Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A record-setting stimulus bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday will not go to the next level without opposition from Alabama Senators.

“I voted against it in the appropriations committee, and I will vote against it when it comes to the floor,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).

And Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said he feels just the same way about President Barack Obama’s $819 billion stimulus, which is the biggest bill passed in the country’s history.

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The bill promises money to several programs and individuals throughout the nation, some of which are infrastructure, health care increases, unemployment benefits and mass transit projects.

But both Sessions and Shelby said they are skeptical just how it will reap benefits for the people of Alabama.

“The people of Alabama need to realize we are borrowing $900 billion, and the people of Alabama will only get a little bit of it,” Shelby said.

Though none of the funds are specifically earmarked for state’s yet, Sessions said less than $1 billion for example will come to the state for infrastructure needs this year if the bill is passed.

In Pike County’s Road Department alone, there are more than $24 million in road and bridge repair needs waiting to be met. That number doesn’t include state roads or those within city limits.

“I don’t mind supporting some roads and some tax reductions, and I don’t mind doing something to see if we can improve the financial situation, but we certainly have gotten little or no benefit from the first bailout money,” Sessions said. “We’re going through a spasm of spending, the likes of which the country has never seen before.”

And on top of that, Sessions said the bill only allots 4-percent of the total to infrastructure repairs.

Sessions said even on top of that the bill will only lead to more debt to be inherited by future generations.

“There’s no free lunch. It’s our children’s money we’re spending, and I think they pay us in Congress to understand that,” Sessions said.

Locally, some business owners sided with the senators.

“I’d rather see tax breaks,” said Chris Schubert, owner of Sears. “I think if the stimulus directly affected the man on the street, then I’m all for that. But there seems to be so much waste.”

But Schubert said his biggest concern was whatever actually may boost his business.

“I need people at my doorstep, and whatever it takes to do that, I’m for it,” Schubert said.

Even Joel Lee Williams, attorney for the Pike County Democrat party, said he wasn’t completely sold on the bill.

“I think it’s a bit of an overkill,” Williams said.

But, overall, he said some of its spending he thinks would boost the economy, even at home.

Rep. Bobby Bright (D-Montgomery), who represents Pike County in the U.S. House, was one of only 11 Democrats to vote against the bill.

Up until the time, Bright said he was undecided on how he would vote, since he liked some parts of the stimulus plan.

“I like the fact that included in the legislation is the text of my first bill that will give small businesses much needed tax relief,” Bright said. “Additionally, I believe that we need to create new jobs, and making needed investments in our infrastructure has the potential to put people back to work.”

But at the same time, Bright said he had concern over whether this particular bill was the way to boost the economy.

No Republicans voted for the bill in the House, and it could enter the Senate for debate as early as next week.