NCSL in the House
How exciting to get invited to the White House! It wasn't for a social occasion, but to advocate for California's fair share of stimulus funding.
As an Executive Board Member of the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), I and Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez represented California at a White House briefing with President Obama, Vice President Biden, Transportation Secretary Ray La Hood, and Administration staff to ensure that our voices were heard and California’s needs were known. We met with the Administration as part of a comprehensive effort including governors, mayors and local elected officials to better understand our needs and allocate the $787 billion as part of the 1,000 page American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, HR1, which President Obama signed on February 17, 2009.
As the first NCSL alumni to become President, Obama articulated that the federal government's role is to be a good partner with state and local governments, and his goal is to get everyone on the same page. In his prepared remarks he spoke about the importance of accountability and transparency in the spending of all stimulus funds. The President elaborated by saying that any petitions for stimulus funding have to be in writing and those requests along with information regarding all meetings with his administration about the stimulus funding will be posted on the Internet. Vice President Biden has also been called upon to take charge of the execution of the ARRA to ensure its transparency and accountability. To find out more information please click here
After his prepared remarks, he opened the floor to questions from state legislators. He reiterated his commitment to renewable energy with ideas such as using plug-in electric vehicles to provide surplus energy to our electric grids; he asked states to work cooperatively by helping to site new power lines to expand capacity for various renewable energy sources; he expressed concern over increasing healthcare costs and alarming unemployment numbers (esp. California at 10.3%).
Secretary La Hood elaborated on President Obama’s personal commitment to long-term investment and substantial improvement of our infrastructure by announcing:
- $27.5B for highways and bridges
- $8B for transit districts
- $1.3B for airports
- $1.5B for discretionary projects (i.e. Ports)
- $8B for high speed rail (music to my ears)
It was an exciting day in D.C. and one that reminded me of the importance of high speed rail to our future transit system. I will continue to work for high speed rail in California, and I hope that someday we will turn this into a nationwide network. For more information, please click here.
After 24 hours on the east coast it is back to California I go. That was fast.