Monday, February 23, 2009

Local Bureaucrat Waiting Desperately for Stimulus Money

Arthur Bridges has worked for the state for nearly 30 years, and he says he's never seen conditions this bad.

"It's bad. Really bad," said Mr. Bridges, "We used to have money flowing in, but with the economy drying up, we're really worried. We need some of that stimulus money fast."

Mr. Bridges is the South West Regional Sub-director of the Pennsylvania Lottery.

"You think those scratch-off tickets just show up at the 7-11? No, it takes working men and women several hours a month to deliver all those tickets. If no one is buying them, I have to lay them all off."

The conditions described by Mr. Bridges are echoed throughout the Commonwealth. With less people driving, fewer roads need to be repaired, leaving PennDOT workers standing idly by the side of the road. Costs driving have also reduced the need for tellers at the Department of Motor Vehicles, forcing them to close all but one line. In the Agriculture Department, high wheat prices have stopped farmers from growing crops that they otherwise wouldn't grow except to get the subsidy to throw them away. This has forced the lay off literally five State inspectors. All of these agencies are looking for money from the stimulus bill.

"The Economy is tough," says Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner, "We'll muddle through somehow, but the money from the Obama administration will not be a panacea for every department. Although, it will help us audit the State's extensive fish hatchery system."

Large chunks of Stimulus Package are already dedicated to school renovations, energy efficiency, housing, and health, with a sizable percentage going to tax cuts. The bill was tailored to be narrowly focused on certain key areas.

Still, Mr. Bridges remains hopeful.

"There's not much money earmarked for the Lottery in the bill. I did see that there was some money to go towards education. I'm thinking we could get a grant to promote our product as a class in probability. Or maybe we could couch this as 'supplementary risk based bonus food stamp allocation funds'. That should probably work."

Money from the stimulus bill is not expect to flow to the States for at least six months.

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