California's Share of Stimulus Pie: Small But Welcome

Medicaid, education, state budget aid top list

Nearly $33 billion is set aside for California under the Obama economic stimulus plan approved by the House of Representatives, according to Congressional staff aides.

But business, labor and government leaders say it's less than 4 percent of the total stimulus package -- and the state comprises nearly 12 percent of the nation's population.

With that complaint duly noted, they acknowledge it's a welcome start.

"The money that would come directly to the state for budget purposes might help to offset some potential pressure for tax increases in California.  That could be good," said Ruben Barrales, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. 

"But the real focus," Barrales added in an interview Wednesday, "Should be on spurring the private sector to create jobs."

The House stimulus bill allocates $11 billion to Medicaid in California and $10 billion to education programs, with nearly $8 billion available for state budget aid.

"Obviously, our education system has to continue; it's taken a huge hit lately," said Lorena Gonzalez, CEO of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council. 

"You have some money going into schools," Gonzalez noted.  "You have some money going into construction.  Public works projects, which are good jobs -- ongoing jobs -- which will put money into the economy."

Here's where the job creation comes in:

  • Highway and bridge construction projects: $2.8 billion.
  • Mass transit capital projects: $950 million.
  • Rail line modernization work: $294 million.
  • Water quality programs: $415 million.

Meantime, about $10.5 billion will go to infrastructure work at military installations throughout the country. San Diego's large military presence should account for a good percentage of that. Military housing is among the new allocations. And there's money for more day-care facilities at Navy and Marine Corps bases.

"They are much-needed, especially in San Diego," said Navy wife Donna Cook, who was pushing her two daughters in a stroller on a sidewalk Wednesday in the Murphy Canyon military housing complex in Tierrasanta.

They're overrun, overpacked, waiting lists," Cook explained.  "You can't get drop-in day care, either.  It's all full. So, could be a nice break."

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