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Stimulus Saves Oregon Jobs, But Most Are In Government

Stimulus Saves Oregon Jobs, But Most Are In Government

Harry Esteve | The Oregonian via YellowBrix

October 13, 2009

Federal stimulus spending has created or saved thousands of Oregon jobs, state officials boasted Monday, but at least three out of every four positions were in government work, according to the state’s own figuring.

The lion’s share of the money — about $750 million, went to beefing up entitlement programs, such as Medicaid, unemployment benefits and food stamps.

But the remaining quarter-billion has been spread among public schools, universities, public safety and construction projects that have spared teacher layoffs, kept prisons open and allowed contractors to hire new workers.

In all, the spending accounts for the equivalent of 8,238 full-time jobs, according to the state’s report, which was delivered to federal authorities over the weekend. Of those, more than 6,000 were in education and public safety. Fewer than 2,000 were in the private sector.

“The fact is, it’s working,” Gov. Ted Kulongoski said today at a Portland news conference. Without the federal help, Oregon’s already gloomy economic picture would be even worse, Kulongoski said.

The governor made his comments on the same day the state released updated unemployment numbers showing a stubbornly high rate of 11.5 percent. That’s down from 12 percent last month, but reflects the loss of more than 10,000 jobs statewide.

Monday’s report is the first of what will be regular quarterly updates on how Oregon divvies up the estimated $3.9 billion over three years. The figure represents the state’s share of the $733 billion stimulus package approved by Congress last February as part of President Obama’s effort to rescue the nation’s failing economy.

The state report doesn’t include direct federal grants or grants to local governments, which could reap another $2 billion or more for Oregon over three years. Nor does it include the billions of dollars in federal income tax cuts that were part of the stimulus bill.

Instead, it reflects money that has come through state coffers and has been spent “in every corner of the state,” Kulongoski said. Besides classrooms and prisons, the money has gone for everything from new pavement and sidewalks to new water systems and refurbished university buildings.

The governor clearly wanted to play up the private sector benefits Monday. He held his news conference in the parking lot of an Oregon Department of Transportation maintenance yard and brought in several highway contractors to talk about new hires they’ve made.

Brent Kerr, of Kerr Contractors, Woodburn, said he was able to hire 56 new employees because of federal stimulus spending, which accounted for 52 percent of his business this year. Among his projects is the reworking of Interstate 405 in Portland.

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