Topeka — Officials Thursday praised federal stimulus funding with completion in Osawatomie of the first affordable housing development under a program started by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Gov. Mark Parkinson said without federal stimulus funds, the state would have had to cut its budget by 20 percent in some areas.
Asked why all five Republicans in Kansas’ congressional delegation voted against the federal stimulus package, Parkinson, a Democrat, said those members would have felt differently had they been governor.
“The Recovery Act has been essential to our state, not only in terms of balancing the budget without demolishing essential state programs, but it’s also been important to Kansans who are struggling to get through this national recession,” he said.
Kansas will receive between $1.8 billion and $1.9 billion over three fiscal years under the federal stimulus plan with most of that going to help public schools, to help low-income Kansans get health care, and for higher education, road construction and the unemployed.
U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Lenexa, whose district includes east Lawrence, was the only member of the Kansas delegation to vote for the Recovery Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in February.
In general, Republicans have criticized the $787 billion act as a massive increase in federal spending that hasn’t produced jobs.
But the Obama administration has defended it as necessary to jump-start the economy, while helping states survive the recession.
Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin was in Kansas to tout completion of the 24-unit Woodland Hills Estate in Osawatomie, the first project completed under a Treasury Department program that gives developers grants to build affordable housing.
Projects like Woodland Hills were being built all over the country, Wolin later said at a news conference in Topeka. “The Recovery Act was never meant to fix the economy overnight,” he said. “It will take a while. This is just the beginning.”
Several months ago, the Osawatomie project stalled because of the inability to get tax credits, but the Recovery Act provided the $2.4 million to complete the facility for elderly residents. Woodland Hills was developed after flooding destroyed nearly 10 percent of Osawatomie’s housing in 2007.
Steve Weatherford, president of the Kansas Development Finance Authority, noted that in addition to Treasury Department grants, Kansas will receive $56 million in funds to weatherize nearly 6,000 homes.
And, he said, KDFA plans to use Build America Bonds under the Recovery Act to continue restoration of the Capitol, and help build Kansas University’s School of Pharmacy expansion.
“The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is hard at work for Kansas families, infusing cash into the state’s economy and jump-starting housing development across the state,” he said.