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City of Santa Clarita expects $7.5 million from bailout package

Bailout gets mixed reviews

Posted: February 13, 2009 1:09 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.

 
To the average guy, $7.5 million is a princely sum. Next to nearly $800 billion, it's a drop in the bucket.

But it's a drop that could help Santa Clarita pay for road work.

City officials hope to pluck about $2 million for road-related projects and $5.5 million for transit-related work out of the gargantuan $789 billion stimulus package taking shape on Capitol Hill.

"That's what we anticipate we'd be eligible for," said Michael Murphy, the city's intergovernmental relations officer. "It may go up or down a little bit."

Obtaining funds will be somewhat of a "backward process," Murphy said.

Once the stimulus package is approved, he said city officials will have a better idea of what kind of funding is available and how to best apply for it.

That hasn't stopped city staff from drawing up a list of projects Murphy feels would qualify for funding.

That list includes work to improve traffic circulation and safety at the intersections of Newhall Avenue and Sierra Highway, and McBean Parkway and Orchard Village Road; road surfacing; upgrades to signals; and a right-turn lane at the intersection of Whites and Soledad canyon roads.

In keeping with the goals of the stimulus package, Murphy said the rationale is to secure funding for short-term projects, because contracts can be awarded in 90 to 180 days.

"There may be some (funds) that are available for longer-term projects, we just don't know that yet," he said.

The city would likely apply for funds through the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Murphy said and added stimulus dollars would be diverted through existing channels versus the establishment of new systems.

Santa Clarita would not only benefit from funds it can apply for, Murphy said, but from programs such as the proposed automotive tax credit, designed as an incentive to buy new vehicles.

The proposed stimulus bill includes $1.7 billion to make sales tax paid on new cars, light trucks, recreational vehicles and motorcycles tax deductible through the end of the year.

Automotive sales tax is a major source of tax revenue for Santa Clarita, and with vehicle sales in the tank, legislators hope the credit can fuel new purchases.

Locally, auto sales are down about 45 percent from 2008, said Don Fleming, president of Valencia Acura Feb. 5.

While Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon has been a proponent of the auto tax credit, he does not support the proposed stimulus bill, said Lindsay Mask, spokeswoman for McKeon, R-Santa Clarita.

"It feels like it's being pushed through without any transparency," Mask said Thursday. "It's a huge spending bill."

McKeon also has concerns about funding being routed through the state, rather than directly to congressional districts.

The 21,622-square-mile 25th congressional district McKeon represents is one of the largest in the state, including the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys, Inyo and Mono counties and part of San Bernardino County.

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