Duncan, talking about the self-defeating focus on the federal budget deficit:
I'm not talking about make work, I'm talking about real projects from basic maintenance to sewers to pothole filling to the demolishing and reclaiming of property with abandoned buildings etc... etc... The fact that the administration is signaling that it's more worried about the deficit than unemployment is incredibly frustrating.
He's also complained, rightly, in the past about the fact that stimulus funds for the states were cut at the behest of people concerned about spending too much.
There's a similar process at work here in Pennsylvania. Recently, the Rendell administration announced it was cutting an additional 319 state jobs:
[T]he Department of Environmental Protection will see the greatest reductions, losing 138 positions, or about 5 percent of its workforce ....
I was talking to a civil engineer last night who is working on several stimulus-funded infrastructure projects. He told me that people don't realize that every project requires the DEP to issue a permit before work begins. The DEP staff is already overworked; now, with the cuts, permits will be delayed even further. The net effect is that the stimulus money that Pennsylvania is getting won't be spent as quickly as it could be.
The state officials downplay it:
[DEP secretary John] Hanger said the layoffs, plus unfilled vacancies totaling an additional 120 jobs, would reduce the agency's overall staff complement from 3,011 to 2,760. He said sparing the inspection and enforcement staff was "the highest priority" but said the reductions might lengthen the permit-granting process for certain construction projects.
Making the unfilled vacancies permanent means that DEP is actually losing 258 staff, which is over 8% of the workforce.
But when it comes to development, they have their priorities:
Cuts to the Department of Environmental Protection will not affect oversight of increased natural gas exploration in the so-called Marcellus Shale reserve, the rich vein of gas that underlies most of the state, agency secretary John Hanger said.
He said the 120 salaried staffers who review applications for permits to drill for gas or oil and inspect drilling sites are covered by fees paid by the industry and aren't affected by the cuts.
The fracing that is required to extract the gas from the shale is also going to dump huge amounts of pollutants into the Susquehanna, which is already making people sick. And guess what? Under a law passed by Congress in 2004, fracing is exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act, which means the federal EPA has no jurisdiction over the practice. That leaves the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which is now down 8% in staff, to regulate the problem.