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Kind, Walz seek assurance jobs bill doesn't neglect rural America

September 15, 2011
In The News

La Crosse Tribune

By Chris Hubbach

Wisconsin and Minnesota would each get about $1.6 billion under President Barack Obama's $130 billion jobs plan to fix crumbling roads, bridges and schools, and prevent layoffs of teachers, police officers and firefighters.

But congressional staffers were still figuring out Wednesday just how that money would be allocated.

Of the $368.7 million to repair and improve Wisconsin's K-12 school buildings, nearly 46 percent would go to the Milwaukee system. Minneapolis and St. Paul schools would get $107.5 million - or about 39 percent - of Minnesota's $274.5 million.

Language in the president's proposal indicates transportation funding would be allocated according to traditional formulas just as with the recovery act of 2008. According to U.S. Rep. Ron Kind's office, other funds will go to the states for allocation but with some guidelines.

Kind, of La Crosse, and Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota, both Democrats, said Tuesday they support the president's plan but want to ensure the money doesn't just go to big cities.

"If you've been through the Rushford (Minn.) schools, they're just trying to keep the walls from falling down," Walz said.

Kind pointed to the Mississippi River lock and dam system where maintenance is underfunded.

"If it breaks down, that affects everyone," he said.

One thing is certain, Kind said: With a moratorium on earmarks, Congress won't be directing money to members' pet projects.

Both lawmakers said it's important to pass some version of the bill quickly to jump-start the economy while investing in the nation's infrastructure.

"We've got bridges falling down," Kind said. "We know we need to do this. Let's do it now when we need the jobs."

Walz said he is open to compromise if that's what it takes to pass a bill. But he said the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is scheduled to be in session just four days in October.

By the numbers: The president's proposal for jobs spending

Wisconsin: $1.59 billion

Transportation: $575.4 million

Educators and first responders: $536 million

School buildings: $368.7 million ($168.9 million for Milwaukee Public Schools)

Housing rehab: $27.4 million

Community colleges: $79.9 million

Minnesota: $1.58 billion

Transportation: $608 million

Educators and first responders: $504.4 million

School buildings: $274.5 million

Housing rehab: $101 million

Community colleges: $87.8 million

Source: White House