EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 26, 2008

Hodes backs economic stimulus plan

By Gordon Fraser , Staff writer

SALEM, N.H. - It's the economy, Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce members.

That's the message U.S. Rep. Paul Hodes, D-N.H., delivered yesterday on his second visit to the group's early morning "Washington Update."

Hodes, in the second year of his first term, has been a vocal critic of President Bush's Iraq war policies, but yesterday most of his focus was on an economic stimulus package Congress passed Thursday.

While Congress and the president have agreed to the $150 billion package, the Senate hasn't yet passed the measure.

Hodes delivered his message to a group of just over 25 business and community leaders, saying the package was almost everything he had hoped for.

"People really worked together here," he said. "(But) we are not, certainly, out of the woods."

While the package contained rebates to individual taxpayers, relief for those affected by the housing crisis and incentives for small businesses, the measure did not contain the extra money for state and municipal governments he had wanted, he said.

Still, according to Hodes, the package should be a tremendous benefit to business owners in the area.

One part of the package - which Hodes sponsored - offers $250,000 in tax credits to businesses for research and development.

While Hodes largely delivered a message of bipartisanship and cooperation to the mixed group of Republicans and Democrats, he didn't resist taking a few shots at the administration.

"It seemed that, early in the term, (Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Ben) Bernanke's view was: 'Things are fine,'" Hodes said.

And he made the occasional pitch for his re-election, highlighting the things his office has done for local residents - the more than 1,000 Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid claims his office has expedited, the 20,000 miles he has put on his car, and the thousands and thousands of letters he has answered.

"I love my job. I just love my job," he told the chamber members.

U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., also was expected to participate in the event, but could not make it.