With Congress on the verge of passing a broad, $789 billion economic stimulus bill, Oklahoma Congressional District 3 Representative Frank Lucas remains opposed to the legislation.
In a special phone interview Thursday, Lucas shared his thoughts on the bill and its potential.
Although he does not believe the package will have the overall impact President Obama and Congressional Democrats have advertised, Lucas believes elements of the bill are necessary to jump start the sputtering economy.
“I think if you’re going to have a stimulus bill you should have a stimulus bill,” Lucas said.
A news release issued by Lucas’s office says the package, as of Thursday, “was initially touted as an “infrastructure stimulus package,” but only 3 per cent of the package ($30 billion) goes to building roads and highways.”
The release says the package includes $600 million for government cars, $50 million for the National Endowment of the Arts, and $21 million for sodding the National Mall between the United States Capitol and the Washington Monument in Washington, DC.
“I agree with spending federal money on things that will create economic activity in a hurry,” he said. “So much of the bill that passed out of the House was a backlog of spending from the last 12 to 14 years.”
Lucas said he supports infrastructure improvement projects in the bill, specifically projects for road, highway and dam enhancements. Lucas said such projects could rapidly have a positive impact on the economy.
Lucas said he also supports funding programs to assist workers who have lost their jobs in the economic downturn.
“Who can argue with bumping up unemployment benefits?” he said.
Lucas said infrastructure initiatives combined with tax cuts is the best formula to get unemployed workers back to work.
“Just increasing how much money the government spends is not in the best interest,” he said.
“We need to create an environment to do business at home and to bring jobs back home,” he said. “I’m in favor of stimulating economic activity and using the tax code to encourage it.”
Lucas also said if you make the (domestic financial) environment tough enough, people will take their jobs overseas.
Lucas said the biggest role the federal government plays in stimulating economic growth is making sure money gets into the hands of people who can make economic growth happen.
“We (Congress) are a transfer agent,” he said, “not a creator of wealth. It’s people who create economic growth.”
Lucas said he anticipates the economic stimulus package will become law within the next few days.
“The bill is going to pass, and in my opinion, be signed into law this weekend,” “I hope it works because it’s going to happen,” he said.
Rep. Lucas said he would visit with the Herald by phone once a month to provide comments on current issues facing the nation, Oklahoma, and the local level.
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