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February 26, 2009

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Stimulating the bluegrass

The governor and mayor tout how they’ll spend federal stimulus dollars

Gov. Steve Beshear and Mayor Jerry Abramson held a joint press conference in Louisville yesterday to outline how the state and the city plan to spend their portion of President Barack Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package.

Kentucky will receive $3 billion in federal stimulus money over the next 28 months that will help fund a struggling Medicaid system, health and welfare services, job training, public safety, roads and bridges, and transit programs, in addition to providing a much-needed boost to the state’s cash-strapped general fund.

“The president made it clear this is not a blank check,” said Beshear, warning that state leaders must be careful and focused in spending the federal dollars. “It is not for creating new programs or expansions that we cannot afford in the future. It’s one-time money.”

The governor said there will be full transparency in how the state will appropriate the $3 billion, promising the creation of a website to track exactly what the state does with its share. Cabinet Secretary Larry Hayes will oversee the allocation of Kentucky’s federal stimulus dollars.

As for Louisville: The city stands to receive as much as $200 million, maybe even more depending on grants made available by the package.

Although the city has not yet determined exactly how the money will be spent, Mayor Jerry Abramson announced yesterday the creation of a team to oversee local job creation spurred by the stimulus. Dubbed “Louisville At Work,” the initiative will convene government, education and community leaders to prioritize projects and to apply for the available competitive federal grants made possible by the stimulus.

Bringing together a number of past and present allies, Abramson said the first jobs could be created in the next six months.

In addition, the city will seek to build and improve roads, expand water lines, strengthen floodwalls and weatherize homes with its portion of the federal funding.

“The game is in the competitive grants for applications to fund these projects,“ Abramson said. “These new federal dollars give us a unique chance to create a lasting legacy in our city.”

Mayor Abramson has tapped former deputy mayor Rick Johnstone to head the “Louisville At Work” team.