Tuesday, February 17, 2009

One Down, Two to Go

Thanks to you, we now have an economic recovery plan that includes substantial fiscal relief to state and local governments. President Obama signed this bill into law today.

Thousands of AFSCME members across the nation helped get this bill passed with phone calls, emails and faxes to your members of Congress. AFSCME International President Gerald McEntee has a special video message for all of you who took action: you can view it here.

We succeeded despite the Republican leadership's effort to kill the bill and stick to the failed policies that got us in this mess in the first place. Not one Republican supported this bill in the House. And only Senators Snowe and Collins (ME) and Specter (PA) were brave enough to break with their fellow Republicans in the Senate.

The opposition to Obama's jobs and recovery package was truly shocking given the dire situation of our economy.

  • AFSCME members are dealing with proposals for layoffs, furloughs, demands for contract re-openers and much more—all while demand for public services grows.
  • America is losing 20,000 jobs a day and unemployment just hit 7.6%.
  • States are looking at shortfalls this fiscal year that amount to 14% of their total budgets.
  • Projections for the 2010 and 2011 fiscal years look to be even worse.
I will be the first to admit that the compromise deal for the bill isn't perfect. We'll probably need more help and perhaps another recovery bill. But we know that without this plan, AFSCME members would feel much more pain. With it, we can avoid some of the most drastic cutbacks that would otherwise be made.

As a result of your hard work, the bill includes:

  • $87 billion increase in the federal contribution for Medicaid programs, money that will immediately relieve pressures on state governments and free up resources for other purposes.
  • $80 billion in new education funding to help states and local governments.
  • $150 billion in spending on infrastructure, for transportation facilities, roads and bridges, public transit, clean water, flood control, school construction and energy efficiency.
  • An additional $9 billion to the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund for flexible grants for critical public services.
Passing a jobs and economic recovery bill was the first of our three top legislative priorities in our "Make America Happen" campaign. Now we will fight to win quality, affordable health care for all and to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. And we’ll need you every step of the way. If the events—and your emails and calls—over the last few weeks have shown me anything, it's that when we join together, we can indeed make America happen, again.

Thanks for making a difference—I hope you'll watch the special video message from International President Gerald McEntee here.

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