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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Boehner Wrong on Stimulus Spending

John Boehner, phone home. Or at least check the Ohio Department of Transportation’s highly informative Web site before talking about state road projects on TV.

Last week, Rep. Boehner, the House Republican leader who hails from the Buckeye State, released a video featuring a bloodhound purporting to sniff out jobs created by the $787 billion stimulus package that took effect in February – and finding none. Boehner followed that up with a July 5 interview on “Fox News Sunday,” saying that “to my knowledge” contracts for infrastructure projects in Ohio that are to be funded by stimulus money hadn’t been awarded yet.

Boehner, “Fox News Sunday,” July 5: This was supposed to be about jobs, jobs, and jobs. And the fact is it turned into nothing more than spending, spending, and more spending on a lot of big government bureaucracy.

In Ohio, the infrastructure dollars that were sent there months ago – there hasn’t been a contract let, to my knowledge. And the fact is – is I don’t believe it will create jobs.

Now, a Web ad from the Democratic National Committee, released July 7, nails Boehner for his statement about projects in Ohio. The ad is correct when it notes that “millions in Recovery Act funds have been committed to dozens of projects” creating jobs in Ohio.

According to a June 15 press release from ODOT, hundreds of construction-related jobs were created and retained from almost $37 million in contracts awarded:

Ohio Department of Transportation, June 15: With the awarding of more than $36.9 million in construction contracts today, the Ohio Department of Transportation is spurring the creation and retention of hundreds of construction-related jobs by investing federal stimulus funds into 29 roadway and bridges projects across the state.

Combined with the contracts awarded so far using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, ODOT has awarded more than $83.9 million in contracts for work on 52 projects – a combination of interstate, local roadway and bridge modernization projects.

As contracts are awarded, construction companies begin to mobilize workers for these jobs. Jobs are also being created and retained by firms that provide materials and equipment used in highway construction, and those jobs supported by consumer expenditures resulting from wages to ‘construction oriented’ and ‘supporting industries’ employment.

In an interview with FactCheck.org, ODOT spokesman Scott Varner said that at this writing, contracts for 58 projects, totaling $126 million in stimulus funds, have been awarded. "When the contracts are awarded, that’s when the hiring and the retention of jobs begins," Varner said. Work began on the first of the stimulus-supported road projects – widening the ramp from Interstate 490 eastbound to Interstate 77 northbound near downtown Cleveland – in early June, according to ODOT’s Web site, where a press release was posted nearly a month before Boehner’s appearance on "Fox News Sunday." Contractors are required by the stimulus law to submit monthly reports on how many workers they hire, but the first reports haven’t come in yet, said Varner.

Boehner’s statement is hard to explain, though we might note that Ohio’s governor, Ted Strickland, is a Democrat. Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith office issued a clarification Tuesday, according to Politico:

Kevin Smith, July 7: [S]ome contracts have been belatedly set in motion, but the entire process has been absurdly slow-moving – just as Republicans warned it would be last winter when we called for an economic recovery bill based on fast-acting tax relief for small businesses and working families rather than spending on slow-moving government programs. It’s embarrassing that the DNC can’t defend its own indefensible trillion-dollar stimulus that isn’t working but resorts to desperate tactics like this.

Nationally, the payout of stimulus funds by the federal government is hewing roughly to the schedule predicted by the Congressional Budget Office around the time the bill passed, some economists say. CBO had said that about a quarter of the total money would be spent by the end of 2009, and about 75 percent by the end of the following year. Economist Mark Zandi of Moody’s Economy.com predicts that "the maximum contribution from the stimulus should occur in the second and third quarters of this year, when it will add more than 3 percentage points to annualized real GDP."