EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

August 17, 2009

Mass. among top 10 states in stimulus spending; job numbers elusive

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON — The state, local governments and private entities in Massachusetts have received $4.44 billion and spent more than $2.02 billion, 45 percent, through the federal stimulus law, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

That percentage of spending puts Massachusetts seventh among states in the rate of putting stimulus funds into the economy, Executive Office of Administration and Finance officials said Thursday. By the end of the life of the stimulus in fiscal 2011, the state expects to receive $9.22 billion for spending out of $514 billion doled out nationally, as well as $4.28 billion in tax benefits, compared to $272.52 billion nationally.

Testifying Thursday before the Legislature's Committee on Federal Stimulus Oversight, budget officials said the federal funds had helped save budgets for important social welfare programs, spark infrastructure development and retain jobs. But "evolving" federal guidance has made it difficult to track the number of jobs created, they said.

Much of the funding has been used in the state budget, effectively preserving jobs that may have been cut.

Secretary of Administration and Finance Leslie Kirwan said stimulus spending was one facet of the Patrick administration's effort to turn around the Massachusetts economy, which has seen tens of thousands of job losses and deteriorating tax collections in recent months. Other aspects include the state's borrowing program, an accelerated bridge repair program, as well as investments in broadband, clean energy and life sciences.

Of the $2.02 billion in stimulus funds spent, state agencies are responsible for $1.47 billion, including $419 million for education, $1.02 billion for safety net programs, $12.4 million for public safety efforts, $8.1 million for labor and workforce development programs and $4.5 million for transportation programs. The rest flows directly into cities and towns, school districts and non-governmental entities.

Spending deadlines for hundreds of millions of dollars of transportation infrastructure funds have been met and exceeded, said Jeffrey Simon, director of the Patrick administration's Office of Infrastructure Investment, which oversees much of the stimulus spending. Those deadlines included a 120-day window to spend $153 million on highway repairs - Massachusetts spent $191 million - and a 180-day timeframe to spend $159 million on transit - the state has spent $164 million as of two weeks ago - Simon said. If those deadlines had not been met, the state would have had to return the money to the federal government.

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