Editorial boards across the "purple states" are looking ahead to President Obama's budget address, and continuing to assess the local implications of the passage of the stimulus package:
The Denver Post welcomes President Obama's plan to halve the national deficit over the next four years. The editors praise him for pledging to introduce a budget that reflects fiscal reality, including expenses that had prevously been off the books, such as war spending. But the editors also insist that cutting the deficit isn't realistic without serious entitlement reform. The president has spoken of his desire to take on such reform, but has yet to offer any concrete plans, and the editors implore him to do so quickly, regardless of the strong opposition he may face from within his own party.
The Raleigh News and Observer takes a look at some of smaller items in the stimulus plan that hit close to home. With all the "mega-projects and multi-billions" in the stimulus bill, the editors believe it's worth noting smaller programs like the $113 million intended to help low-income families and senior citizens in North Carolina make their dwellings more energy efficient. They underline this program as the kind of local stimulus that will offer help where it's most needed: "in the paychecks of hard-pressed (and maybe laid off) construction workers." While it is essential to "keep an eagle eye out for fraud or inefficiency," the editors argue it is time to "turn up the heat" on services like weatherization - modest programs with tangible benefits.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch highlights the challenge of ensuring that local officials meet the President's challenge to spend stimulus funding wisely - "free from politics and free from personal agendas." The editors offer a sobering look at recent instances in which cronyism has plagued municipal politics in St. Louis, documenting a laundry list of local "slush funds". From billion-dollar insider contracts in Washington to small-time boodling at local city halls and fire districts, the editors caution that taxpayer money has a way of finding its way into the pockets of friends and cronies. They echo the widespread calls for oversight that have emerged following the passage of the stimulus package.
The Las Vegas Sun also calls for transparency on the distribution of stimulus funds, applying particularly scrutiny to the $201 million Nevada is expected to receive for transportation projects. The editors call for the Nevada Legislature to provide oversight to ensure the transportation spending process is transparent, but also express their hope that this doesn't become a turf battle between the legislative and executive branches. With no signs the economy is getting any better, they urge lawmakers and the governor's office to work together so the transportation funds can be spent as soon as possible. In the editors estimation, "the public has a vested interest in knowing not only how the money is being spent, but that it is being used wisely."
For a good sense of how members of Congress are selling the stimulus plan to their constituencies take a look at Rep. Paul W. Hodes's op-ed in today's Concord Monitor. Job creation is the main theme of Hodes piece and he claims the plan will generate more than 16,000 new jobs for New Hampshire families. He argues the plan's investments in green-collar jobs will bring well-paying jobs in biomass industries to New Hampshire's economically distressed North Country. At the same time, its long-term infrastructure spenidng will help bring industry to southern New Hampshire and revitalize the rail line from New Hampshire to Lowell, Mass. Hodes is also careful to point out that the plan includes the "the largest middle-class tax cut in our nation's history", a key selling point in the low tax country of the "live free or die" state. Though he makes it clear that Obama's plan is not a "magic cure" for New Hampshire's economic woes, Hodes insists it is a "necessary and right step" towards "creating millions of jobs for Americans sitting around the kitchen table worried about how they will make it through this economic crisis."
Writing from the heart of foreclosure country, The Orlando Sentinel argues that Florida can no longer rely on its climate to attract homeowners. With Florida's growth rate grinding to a 30-year low, the editors argue that Florida must take a close look at the role of high insurance rates and high levels of violent crime in inhibiting the state's traditional influx of new homeowners from states like New York. Underlining the need for efficient public-transit systems and strong schools, they believe Florida can make itself attractive to more residents "if it stops thinking of itself as an inevitable destination, and starts doing more to make itself a worthy one."