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Local officials worry stimulus package won't match expectations

Bailout gets mixed reviews

Posted: February 13, 2009 12:46 a.m.
Updated: February 13, 2009 4:55 a.m.

In this file photo, construction continues on Golden Valley Road at Valley Center Drive. The city of Santa Clarita expects to receive a shot in the arm for road projects once Congress reaches an agreement on the proposed $789-billion stimulus package.

 
When it comes to the $789-billion economic stimulus package, Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce Chairman Bill Kennedy might have summed it up best.

"I think more Americans know more about Jessica Simpson's weight problem than the stimulus package," Kennedy said.

While he thinks there are some projects in the package that could benefit Santa Clarita, Kennedy's concerned the public does not know enough about its contents.

"I don't know if it's been fully aired to the public so they can know what is going on," he said. "I'm concerned politicians have sat in Washington and constructed the plan and yet we as taxpayers don't know what criteria they're using to apply to the programs that are in the tax plan and how they measure up to what I consider the principle objective, which is to stimulate the economy."

Kennedy always advocates investment over spending.

Investment opportunities to benefit Santa Clarita would include new roads and bridges and energy programs to help save money and the environment, he said.

"Those are very worthwhile programs and have long-term value because they'll be here for a long time even after the money is spent," he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said there might only be 1 percent of waste in the bill, but that would still amount to almost $8 billion, Kennedy said.

"One percent concerns me. That might not seem like a lot to the congresswoman, but that's enough to run Santa Clarita for about 57 years," he said.

Kennedy isn't completely disenchanted by the bill.

"I think it definitely will affect Santa Clarita in some ways because there are some things in the stimulus package that affect the people's purchases, for example, and people's individual taxes," he said.

"For example, I know they have a provision in there for a tax deduction credit on housing purchases. I think it was $8,000 or $7,000 per house for first-time buyers into the market. So that sort of tax credit might encourage people to get into houses."

But Phil Nordella, owner of Realty Executives in Newhall, said there could be a catch to the tax credit.

"It's a tax credit, but you actually have to pay it back and claim it on your taxes," Nordella said. "For the $7,500, you claim $500 income with that for the next 15 years so it wipes itself out, it's not really a credit - it's a loan. We have no idea where it's going to lead to because we don't know whether or not they're going to have to pay it back through putting it as income on their 1040s every year ... I think it's a little premature to see where the smoke's going to clear."

President of the Southland Regional Association of Realtors, Inc., Santa Clarita division, Nancy Starczyk, said the stimulus bill's impact should start with the housing sector.

"I'm hoping ... the housing sector will heal quickly because that is where we need to have our first recovery in order for everything else to follow suit," she said.

But Starczyk admitted she hasn't seen much detail laid out about the plan. She's looked and hasn't found much, she said.

"Congress is expected to release full details on it (today) so I don't know all the details yet," she said.

As someone who daily works with local residents desperate for work, Sue Reynolds of NewMarket Careers is optimistic the bill could create jobs and even uplift Santa Clarita's nonprofit sector.

"Imagine that this could provide funding to some of the nonprofit initiatives such as Single Mothers Outreach or the homeless shelter," she said. "Imagine that they would actually get funding for those programs. That would absolutely create jobs in our very vibrant nonprofit sector. We have over 200 that might be able to benefit from that funding. I perceive there would be funding available."

She also said it might fund public works, "that might cause workers to be able to be employed on any of the road projects."

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department officials are optimistic about the stimulus package in terms of safety.

The money from the package could trickle down and help them fight crime, said Steve Whitemore, sheriff's department spokesman.

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