Senate Budget Chairman, A Democrat, Says 20 Percent of Stimulus Should be Cut

By Matt Cover | February 5, 2009 | 7:49 PM EST

Washington ( – The chairman of the Senate Budget Committee told Thursday that more than 20 percent of the stimulus bill consists of long-term spending proposals -- not short-term stimulus -- and these proposals should be removed from the final version of the bill.
Speaking at a Thursday news conference highlighting the catastrophic effects of entitlement spending, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said that only 79 percent of the money in the Senate version of the stimulus would be spent within the next two years.
The more than 20 percent that wouldn’t be spent quickly should be cut, he said.
“The overall package, the Senate package, will spend out in two years, about 79 percent. That means over 20 percent does not spend out in the next two years, and some of it has a much longer tail,” Conrad said.
“My own belief is all of those things should be struck. That’s exactly what we’re doing in the bipartisan group – putting together a list of things that should be cut or should be reallocated.”
Conrad also said that a final compromise had not been reached on what spending provisions should be cut, but that some form of stimulus package should pass.
“We believe that it is very important that we reach a conclusion on a package, and that the package pass,” he said.
“That it’s of sufficient size to make a difference, that (it) takes out things that have long-term spending implications, that would worsen our long-term (budget) outlook, that aren’t temporary in nature.”
Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), meanwhile, said that each provision in the stimulus should be examined along three lines: is it a federal responsibility, is it shovel-ready, and is it proper.
“What we’re trying to do is look at some metrics, and the metrics are: is this a federal responsibility, is it something that’s shovel-ready, are there items there that properly should have competition in the appropriations process,” Voinovich explained.
“The idea is to try to get as much in that package that is as stimulative as possible,” the Ohio Republican added.
One Senate Democratic leader disagreed, saying that there aren’t long-term spending proposals, only “investments.”
“These are permanent investments,” Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), the assistant majority leader, said when asked whether the bill contained any permanent spending measures.
“When we talk about putting libraries, laboratories and classrooms in schools -- that is a permanent investment,” Durbin claimed. “The infrastructure jobs we’ve been talking about will build roads, bridges, highways, mass transit, and we’re going to take advantage of it.”
Durbin, who also spoke at a Capitol Hill press event Thursday, said that timeliness wasn’t the only test for stimulus proposals, adding that projects were worthy if they were both “shovel-ready” and “shovel-worthy.”
“We started off with this notion that everything had to be spent in a hurry,” he said, “but the American people cautioned us: ‘Make sure that it’s not just shovel-ready, but shovel-worthy.’ We can certainly make investments that aren’t going to pay out in the first 18 months, but will pay back for years to come.”
New Jersey Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg agreed, saying that stimulus wasn’t the only priority in the bill.
“An investment today means an opportunity for tomorrow,” Lautenberg said. “The one thing that we have to keep in mind is that once people get to work, once we initiate the economic recovery, the Economic Stabilization Act will do those things that in the years ahead we can educate our kids, keep them healthy, and get on with our lives.”