EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

August 17, 2009

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


Administration officials said they were struggling to quantify the number of jobs created by ARRA funds because of "evolving" guidance for how to calculate job gains and job retention.

"We're on version three now of directives from [the federal Office of Management and Budget]," Simon said. Simon pointed to an Oct. 10 deadline for reporting such numbers, when the state hopes to have clearer guidance.

Sen. Marc Pacheco, who co-chairs the stimulus oversight committee, said he expected "a good news story" when those job numbers were available.

Kirwan later said she expected the numbers to show that "most likely thousands of local jobs" had been created or retained. She, as well as committee co-chairman Rep. David Linsky, said the federal funds for safety net programs - food stamps, mental health services and others - had saved lives.

Since March 19, the last time Administration and Finance officials came before the committee to discuss stimulus funding, Simon's office has hired two veterans of Attorney General Martha Coakley's office to help oversee infrastructure spending. The two, Stephanie LeBlanc and Douglas Rice, who respectively serve as infrastructure assessment manager and compliance and reporting manager, worked on Big Dig cost recovery efforts for Coakley. Simon said hiring officials with that experience made "a statement" about the administration's seriousness about ensuring that public dollars are spent wisely.

Kirwan told committee members the administration had hoped to evenly spread its stimulus funds through fiscal years 2009, 2010 and 2011, but steep deterioration in revenue collections moved state policymakers to frontload much of the stimulus spending to help balance the fiscal 2009 budget.

"When the governor first put this budget together for fiscal '10, we had not yet experienced the revenue losses for April and June," she said, noting that those two months saw revenues miss benchmarks by $500 million and $180 million, respectively. "At this time last year, we still had not lost a dollar of revenue. We did not until the middle of September last year have any loss of revenue."

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