THE BRIEFING ROOM
Remarks by the President on Infrastructure Springfield VA and Background Information on Visit
For Immediate Release February 11, 2009
11:18 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. I am extraordinarily pleased to be here with Virginia's Governor, an exceptional leader and a great friend of mine, Tim Kaine.
Not far from where we're standing, back in Washington, we continue to have a debate about our economic plan -- a plan to create or save more than 3 million jobs in the next few years. And I welcome that conversation. But I am here today because you don't need to travel very far from that debate to see why enacting this plan is both urgent and essential to our recovery -- to see that the time for talk has passed and that now is the time to take bold and swift action.
We've passed a version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan through the House. Yesterday, we passed a version through the Senate. Now we've got to get a final version to my desk -- so that I can sign it and so that here in Virginia and across the country the people can use it.
In Virginia, the unemployment rate has surged to its highest level in more than a decade -- and it might have been a lot worse were it not for the leadership of Governor Tim Kaine and former governor, now Senator Mark Warner. Unemployment claims have doubled in recent months compared to last year. Nationwide, we've lost 3.6 million jobs since this recession began -- nearly 600,000 this past month alone.
These are the people I talked to in Elkhart, Indiana, on Monday, which has lost jobs faster than anyplace else in America, with an unemployment rate of over 15 percent. They're the people I met yesterday in Fort Myers, Florida, which has been among the places hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. These are the folks looking for work, and these are the folks who want to work.
At the same time, look around us. Look at this construction site right where we're standing. We're surrounded by unmet needs and unfinished business -- in our schools, in our roads, in the systems we employ to treat the sick, in the energy we use to power our homes. And that's the core of my plan: putting people to work doing the work that America needs done.
We're here today because there's a lot of work that needs to be done on our nation's congested roads and highways, crumbling bridges and levees, and crowded trains and transit systems. Because we know that with investment, we can create transportation and communications systems ready for the demands of the 21st century -- and because we also know what happens when we fail to make those investments.
We've seen the consequences of a bridge collapse in Minneapolis. We've seen the consequences of levees failing in New Orleans. We see the consequences every day in ways that may be less drastic, but are, nonetheless, burdens on local communities and economies -- time with family lost because of longer daily commutes; growth held back by streets that can't handle new business; money wasted on fuel that's burned in worsening traffic. These are problems that the people of Northern Virginia understand acutely.
Governor Kaine understands it acutely. And your Governor has worked valiantly to relieve these transportation pressures while, at the same time, facing enormous budget pressures. What's worse, now states are facing acute new responsibilities during this recession. Local governments are seeing more people filing unemployment claims, signing up for Medicaid, requesting government services. And all the while, people are spending less, earning less, and paying less in taxes.
So across the country, states need help. And with my plan, help is what they will get. My plan contains the largest investment increase in our nation's infrastructure since President Eisenhower created the national highway system half a century ago. We'll invest more than $100 billion and create nearly 400,000 jobs rebuilding our roads, our railways, our dangerously deficient dams, bridges and levees.
Here in Virginia, my plan will create or save almost 100,000 jobs, doing work at sites just like this one. Where we're standing, that could mean hundreds of construction jobs. And the benefits of jobs we create directly will multiply across the economy.
For example, this kind of infrastructure project requires heavy equipment. Caterpillar, which manufactures the machines used in this project, has announced some 20,000 layoffs in the last few weeks. And today, the chairman and CEO of Caterpillar said that if the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan passes, his company would be able to rehire some of those employees.
Tomorrow, I'm going to East Peoria, Illinois, to visit a Caterpillar manufacturing plant to talk to these workers. Because what's at stake here are not abstract numbers of abstract concepts -- we're talking about real families that we can help and real jobs that we can save.
My plan will also give tax cuts to 3 million Virginia workers and their families. And we'll provide an additional $100 per month in unemployment benefits to nearly a quarter-million workers in Virginia who've lost their jobs, and extend benefits to 46,000 more workers who aren't currently eligible.
So we're at the doorstep of getting this plan through the Congress, but the work is not over. When we do, the challenge will shift to administering successfully this endeavor of enormous scope and scale.
Now, there are those who've expressed the opinion that we won't be able to do it, who say that this plan is too big to be implemented effectively and efficiently. And the fact is, there's a certain amount of skepticism, much of it justified, by what we're accustomed to seeing in Washington. So I understand these concerns, but I'm confident that we can do things differently and better.
As President, I expect to be judged -- and should be judged -- by the results of this program. That's why I refused to allow even a single dollar in this legislation to be spent on earmarks. And that's why we're going to put information about every dollar that's spent, including the money spent on projects like this one, on a new website called recovery.gov -- so that the American people can see where their money is going.
And that's why I will appoint an oversight board that will be charged with monitoring my plans as part of an unprecedented effort to root out waste and inefficiency. And this board will be advised by experts -- not just government experts, not just politicians, but citizens with years of expertise in management, economics and accounting.
We're going to do more than has ever been done before to make certain that every tax dollar is spent wisely and on its intended purpose. So we're going to hold the federal government to new standards of accountability. And just as we demand new accountability for ourselves, we're going to demand this kind of accountability from the states and cities, as well. And I know Tim Kaine and other governors and mayors around the country would expect nothing less.
So much depends on what we do at this moment. It's not just about the future of my administration. It's about the future of our families and communities, our economy and our country. We are going to do this carefully and transparently and effectively as possible because so much is on the line. And that's what we've already begun to do -- drafting this plan with a level of openness for which the American people have asked and which this situation demands.
So I, once again, thank Governor Kaine for welcoming me to the Commonwealth of Virginia once again. I want to thank him for his support of this plan that's so urgent for the people he represents and for the people that I've met throughout this great state and throughout the country.
Thank you very much.
END 11:25 A.M. EST
Background Information for the President's Virginia Infrastructure Project Visit
February 11, 2009
President Obama will visit the construction site of Fairfax County Parkway connector, serving the new east campus of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). NGA is consolidating its eastern facilities with Fort Belvoir Engineer Proving Ground, and it is also under construction. While the Parkway's initial phases of construction are underway, additional funds are necessary to complete the project - which would create more jobs in the local community and eliminate highway congestion around the NGA site and base. This is an example of a project that could receive funding from the stimulus bill.
President Obama will be accompanied by Governor Tim Kaine. Upon arrival they will be greeted by the following members of the army overseeing construction who will brief them on the project:
- COL Jerry Blixt, Installation Commander of Fort Belvoir
- COL Mark Moffatt, Construction Manager
- James Stuart Turkel, Belvoir Integration Office (BIO) Director for the North Atlantic Division (NAD) of the US Army Corps of Engineers.
President Obama will be introduced by Gov. Kaine and deliver brief remarks, focusing on the importance of investing in our nation's roads, bridges and mass transit systems.
'Fairfax' County Jobs And Unemployment Statistics:
- 3.1 percent unemployment (November, 2008, BLS)
- Unemployment increased one percent from November 2007 (BLS)
Additional Background On Springfield/Fairfax County:
'Springfield' Residents And Businesspeople Are Looking To Congress To Fund A Road Project With Money From The Stimulus. The Wall Street Journal reported, "This suburb of Washington, D.C., has a big Army base and a big traffic problem it is hoping the federal government's proposed economic stimulus plan would help solve. Right now, there is a two-mile gap in the Fairfax County Parkway that connects the base, Fort Belvoir, to Interstate 95 and the crowded Northern Virginia suburbs. Because cars can't cut across an undeveloped swath of the base, they drive along nearby residential thoroughfares like Fullerton, Backlick and Rolling Roads... Closing the gap would cost a total of about $190 million. The state of Virginia needs an additional $60 million to get the job done, and Springfield residents and businesspeople are looking to Congress to fund the planned multilane route across undeveloped tracts of Fort Belvoir... Virginia is slated to receive about $750 million for road and bridge projects under the version of the stimulus bill that cleared the House Wednesday. Most of these funds, said Pierce Homer, the state's transportation secretary, will pay for 'ready-to-go' work like resurfacing highways and shoring up decaying bridges... The remainder will be distributed -- after a statewide debate runs its course -- to some long-planned projects recently scaled back or canceled. That means Springfield's project will have to compete with 10 structurally deficient bridges in Richmond, and many others." Wall Street Journal, 1/30/09
'Fairfax' County School Board Chairman: Without Stimulus Money We Will Have To Educate More Students With Far Les Money Than Last Year. DCExaminer.com reported, "School boards in two of the nation's most highly regarded districts are angling for a stimulus check to forestall teacher layoffs and increased class sizes as budget deadlines loom. Fairfax County's school board approved Superintendent Jack Dale's proposed budget Thursday night and passed along the dire figures to the county executive and Board of Supervisors to be approved by the end of April. The stimulus-less proposal included reductions totaling nearly $158 million, the net loss of 248 jobs, and no salary increases. If federal money comes through, it could boost Fairfax schools by $75 million by the end of fiscal 2010, according to an analysis of the House package by the New America Foundation. Without it, Fairfax School Board Chairman Dan Storck said 'essentially, this means that we have to educate more students with far less money than last year, which frankly, will put our national reputation to the test.'" [[[http:__www.dcexaminer.com_local_crime_County-school-boards-hoping-for-boom-from-stimulus-checks_02_0939238057.html]] DCExaminer.com , 2/6/09]
Fairfax County Public Schools Could Receive Money From The Stimulus Package. Centre View reported, "Fairfax County Public Schools could receive some additional money from the federal government this year through the national economic stimulus package. The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that includes the funding for the local school system and the U.S. Senate is expected to take up the matter this week. Under the bill passed by the House, the school system would receive approximately $7.5 million to assist schools that serve "at risk" students, $19.5 million to help students with disabilities and $17.3 million for school construction [[[http:__www.connectionnewspapers.com_article.asp?article=325147&paper=82&cat=104]] Centre View Northern Edition , 2/4/09]
The Fairfax County Board Of Supervisors Compiled A List Of Transportation Projects That Could Use Stimulus Money. Springfield Connection reported, "Nevertheless, state and county officials have already identified a host of transportation projects that they believe would be candidates under the proposed bill. One view held among some state officials is that previously designated projects, which ran out of funding or were delayed in the aftermath of the fall 2008 financial meltdown, are the likeliest choices for federal funding. 'Projects cut or delayed from the plan would obviously be candidates under a stimulus bill,' said Morris. State Sen. George Barker (D-39) pointed to the unfinished portion of Fairfax County Parkway and Telegraph Road improvements as a prime examples of the type of projects that could get moving quickly enough to qualify. Barker shared the belief that these projects would be among the first to be considered and would take some of the burden off the state government and Fairfax County while they deal with their own budget woes. 'The advantage of federal money is that it can be used to do a number of construction projects that we've planned in the past but don't have the funds for,' said Barker. Here is a list of transportation projects compiled by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors sent to the Fairfax County delegation to the 111th Congress. All projects are ready to break ground before 2010 and are listed with the amount still left unfunded:
* $60 million to complete phases three and four of Fairfax County Parkway through to the Engineering Proving Grounds in Springfield
* $9 million to complete construction of a secondary road from Old Keene Mill Road to Fairfax County Parkway in Springfield
* $20 million to complete improvements on Interstate Route 29/Gallows Road in Fairfax
* $11 million to complete construction of Mulligan Road (Old Mill Connector Road) through Fort Belvoir
* $49 million to complete construction of Telegraph Road
* $900 million to complete phase one of the Dulles Rail Project
* $4.1 million to fund more powerful locomotives for the Virginia Railways Express." [[[http:__www.connectionnewspapers.com_article.asp?article=324782&paper=72&cat=104]] Springfield Connection , 1/28/09]
In Fairfax County, Requests For Virginia's State Insurance Program For Children Were Up 16 Percent Between November 2007 And November 2008. The Washington Post reported, "Rising unemployment and the sinking economy are driving sharp increases in the number of Washington area families seeking state health insurance for their children, and more of these families are qualifying for coverage, records show. The increases are particularly pronounced in the region's largest and wealthiest jurisdictions as employers cut benefits and eliminate jobs. In Fairfax County, for instance, requests for the state's insurance program for children, Family Access to Medical Insurance Security (FAMIS), were up 16 percent between November 2007 and November 2008. In Alexandria, caseloads increased 20 percent, and in Loudoun, they were up 16.5 percent." The Washington Post, 1/14/09
The Fairfax County School District Is Coping With A $170 Million Shortfall. The Washington Post reported, "Fairfax County high school gymnastics and indoor track could be eliminated when the 2010 budget is adopted in May as the school district copes with a $170 million shortfall. School officials say the measure would affect about 2,600 athletes and save the county an estimated $471,000... Such a move, made in a county that has been ranked among the nation's wealthiest and with 24 of its 25 schools appearing on Newsweek's 2008 list of America's top public high schools, is a consequence of the nation's economic crisis. Fairfax, a county with a median household income of more than $100,000, has experienced a steep decline in housing prices and anticipated property tax revenue, according to Curran." The Washington Post, 11/20/08
Fairfax' County' Had An 11.1 Percent Foreclosure Rate In December 2008. GoDanRiver.com, a service of the Danville Register Bee, reported, "In December 2008, Danville saw 45 foreclosures compared to 15 in November 2008 and 35 in December 2007, according to data from RealtyTrac.com... Areas that saw the highest foreclosure rates, like Fairfax County (11 percent), Manassas City (11.1 percent) and Prince William County (7.79 percent), tended to be those where there was massive build-up of new units during the past few boom years." Danville Register & Bee, 2/7/09
'Northern Virginia' Suffers From A Weak Housing Market That Has Driven Many Of The Job Losses. The Washington Post reported, "They trickled in through the morning sun, looking for opportunities... Their destination was a third-floor office on Leesburg Pike in Falls Church, known as the Fairfax County SkillSource Center, a job employment office designed to help people down on their luck find work... Each major Northern Virginia jurisdiction had an increase in unemployment from July 2007 to this July. Alexandria's rose from 2.2 percent to 3 percent; Arlington County's, from 1.8 percent to 2.7 percent; Fairfax County's, 2.2 percent to 3.2 percent; Loudoun County's, 2.1 percent to 3.3 percent; and Prince William County's, 2 percent to 3.7 percent. Across the region, the rate rose to 3.4 percent from 2.3 percent. Although the region is insulated from many troubles of the national economy, Northern Virginia suffers from a weak housing market that has driven many of the job losses, economists say. Many at the center are looking for second jobs or a better job than the one they have to withstand the weakening economy... In many cases, people at the center are looking for a better job or work that can lead to a career. Chung Hyun Kim, 61, who emigrated from Korea last year, has been working as a custodian for the Fairfax County school system for much of that time. He started going to the center recently to explore becoming a nurse or medical assistant because he said he wants 'more success.'" The Washington Post, 9/25/08
American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan for the state of Virginia:
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan is a nationwide effort to create jobs, jumpstart growth and transform our economy for the 21st century. Across the country, this plan will help businesses create jobs and families afford their bills while laying a foundation for future economic growth in key areas like health care, clean energy, education and a 21st century infrastructure. In Virginia, this plan will deliver immediate, tangible impacts, including:
- Creating or saving 99,000 jobs over the next two years. Jobs created will be in a range of industries from clean energy to health care, with over 90% in the private sector. Source: White House Estimate based on Romer and Bernstein, "The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan." January 9, 2009.
- Providing a making work pay tax cut of up to $1,000 for 3,000,000 workers and their families. The plan will make a down payment on the President's Making Work Pay tax cut for 95% of workers and their families, designed to pay out immediately into workers' paychecks. Source: White House Estimate based on IRS Statistics of Income
- Making 71,000 families eligible for a new American Opportunity Tax Credit to make college affordable. By creating a new $2,500 partially refundable tax credit for four years of college, this plan will give 3.8 million families nationwide - and 71,000 families in Virginia - new assistance to put college within their reach. Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of U.S. Census data
- Offering an additional $100 per month in unemployment insurance benefits to 247,000 workers in Virginia who have lost their jobs in this recession, and providing extended unemployment benefits to an additional 46,000 laid-off workers. Source: National Employment Law Project
In addition to this immediate assistance for Virginia, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan will help transform our economy by:
- Doubling renewable energy generating capacity over three years, creating enough renewable energy to power 6 million American homes.
- Computerizing every American's health record in five years, reducing medical errors and saving billions of dollars in health care costs.
- Launching the most ambitious school modernization program on record, sufficient to upgrade 10,000 schools.
- Enacting the largest investment increase in our nation's roads, bridges and mass transit systems since the creation of the national highway system in the 1950s.
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