Schweitzer Joins Call for Infrastructure Money

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Gov. Brian Schweitzer is among the governor’s urging President-elect Barack Obama to focus money on infrastructure projects, saying the states could put the money to good use.

The National Governors Association met with Obama Tuesday in Philadelphia. Afterward, Schweitzer said the meeting went well.

“The president elect did more listening than talking, so that’s a good sign,” Schweitzer said. “In a room full of governors there was plenty of talking, so it was good someone was listening.”

The governors are asking for about $136 billion more in infrastructure projects like road and bridge repairs, as well as $40 billion to help pay for health care for the poor and disabled as people lose jobs.

Obama told the governors that he intends to put “a down payment” on investments to pull the country out of its slump.

Schweitzer said he thinks Montana could put some infrastructure money to good use. He said the state has already done the engineering background on many projects and could start work quickly.

He is also pushing for money to increase the energy efficiency of state buildings, saying it would put tradesmen to work right away and save taxpayers money.

“The payoff comes very rapid on that because the states will be spending less on energy costs,” Schweitzer said.

Schweitzer said people are comparing the current recession to one Japan had in the 1990s, and a lesson can be learned from the ineffective response by policymakers in that country. He said any government infusion needs to happen quickly.

“We gave (Obama’s team) a lot of ideas they could use to deploy and get those dollars on the ground right away,” the governor said.

Schweitzer said such spending provides a boost to the economy and saves states money.

The governor said he also believes that Obama understands structural problems in the financial system need to be cured so that people have faith to invest.