Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=155589
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Ryan Craggs/MEDILL

Only about half of all local stimulus dollars have been spent so far by the state, county and city.


Glass half empty, mayor and state seek more stimulus

by Ryan Craggs
Feb 04, 2010


If a kid blows his weekly allowance the minute he gets it, mom and dad usually aren’t too forgiving. But what if he’s spent only half that allowance and asks for an advance?

In this case, replace the child with Mayor Richard M. Daley and mom and dad with the federal government. And that weekly allowance is what most call stimulus money. 

At the U.S. Conference of Mayors, held on Jan. 21, Daley was among the many mayors requesting another round of stimulus cash. Specifically, Daley sought long-term tax breaks for companies that hire new employees. 

“We’re always looking for additional federal funds,” said Peter Scales, spokesman for the Chicago Department of Budget & Management. “Over the last 20 years, federal and state funds have steadily declined.” 

This year marks a distinct break from the trend as municipalities around the country have received chunks of the $787 billion authorized through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. 

Figures published on the city’s recovery Web site show that less than half the money it was awarded by the recovery act has been spent. Chicago received $1.7 billion and thus far has spent about $800 million. Stimulus dollars are not applied to the city’s operating budget, but instead accelerate projects already on the horizon such as road paving.

The city has requested an additional $1 billion. 

At the state level, Illinois has received about $11 billion. Of that, $5.9 billion has been spent. The state has not requested any specific amount beyond what it has received, but is pursuing all money available. 

“It’s an ongoing process,” said Kristi Lafleur, deputy chief of staff for economic development and recovery for Gov. Pat Quinn. “We’re hoping to get as much money as we can for the state. We’re just taking advantage of opportunities that are there.” 

Lafleur cited the recent high-speed rail grant Illinois received as an example. Illinois’ competition in the Race to the Top education program presents another opportunity for further stimulus dollars. 

“We’re going to be very aggressive,” she said.