Posts Tagged ‘stimulus’

Hundreds Of Trees Planted But Few Jobs Created In Clark County Federal Stimulus Project

By Sean Whaley | 2:00 am August 8th, 2011

CARSON CITY – If a $490,000 grant to plant trees in Clark County public places as part of a federal job-creating stimulus project should be measured by the “greening” of Southern Nevada, then the effort might be considered a modest success.

Thirteen different government and nonprofit entities applied for 1,814 trees for planting at 35 different public areas in Southern Nevada through the grant. A total of 1,541 trees have been provided to the agencies and groups for planting, mostly at schools and parks around the Vegas valley.

Photo by Nevit Dilmen (2006)

But if job creation to help the country out of the “great recession” is the measure of success, then the funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the Clark County “Nursery Greening Project” is not likely to win high marks.

According to the Nevada state Division of Forestry, which administered the grant, few jobs were created. Two positions, equivalent to less than 1.5 full-time jobs, were preserved at the Las Vegas State Tree Nursery. A third position through Manpower Inc. of Southern Nevada was created. In addition, 11 individuals were hired for various aspects for projects to include planters, program development, trainers and drivers. The jobs were short term.

Seven temporary jobs were also created for workers at First Choice Tree Service to plant the trees in 15 gallon containers. A total of 480 hours were worked.

The federal website that monitors American Recovery and Reinvestment Act projects, reports the tree planting grant has created 1.72 jobs.

Pete Sepp, vice president for communications and policy at the Washington, DC-based National Taxpayers Union, said the project appears to have generated little benefit in the way of job retention or creation.

Pete Sepp, vice president for communications and policy at the Washington, DC-based National Taxpayers Union.

“At first blush this does seem to have amounted to an awfully high expenditure for a rather low level of results,” he said. “Planting trees is a wonderful thing but if the goal was to preserve or create jobs, a near half million dollar expenditure for a few retained and a few created would strike most taxpayers, especially unemployed ones, as a poor value.”

The project, and many others, raises the question of whether the estimates of job creation through ARRA were ever credible to begin with, Sepp said.

The Nevada News Bureau first reported on the grant in July last year. A public records request to the state Forestry Division provided the results of the grant and its success at job preservation and creation.

Bob Conrad, public information officer for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said of the program: “ARRA projects were solicited to state agencies, and we were given 24 hours to put together very short project proposals. ARRA money had to go through state agencies, and the U.S. Forest Service selected the projects by county.”

U.S. Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers defended the project in an emailed statement: “The recovery act has given hundreds of Nevadans access to green-collar job training in more than a dozen landscaping workshops, and hundreds of trees have been planted in urban settings, improving quality of life and improving energy efficiency. Trees are a long-term investment – the people of Nevada are reaping the benefits of the recovery act now, and will continue to do so for years to come.”

Nevada state Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, tongue firmly in cheek, said the benefit of the job-creation project has been misunderstood.

Nevada state Assemblyman John Hambrick. / Nevada News Bureau file photo

“Obviously when you look at it, what the public does not understand, and obviously you are missing the point – those trees are very special trees,” he said. “They are money trees. And as they plant them, obviously the county will harvest the bills that grow on the money trees. So in actuality it was an investment.”

After the Nevada News Bureau reported on the program, it along with tree planting efforts in several other states, made a list of 100 questionable ARRA projects assembled by two U.S. senators in 2010 in a report called “Summertime Blues.”

Even President Obama joked in June that the 2009 $787 billion stimulus bill, aimed at creating jobs with “shovel ready” projects, “was not as shovel ready as we expected.” The stimulus was intended to keep the national jobless rate from exceeding 8 percent, but that did not happen.

Even so, defenders of the stimulus said the jobless rate, which stood at 9.2 percent as of June, would have been worse without the grants, extended unemployment benefits and other elements of ARRA. Nevada’s June jobless rate was 12.4 percent, tops in the nation.

Sepp said such claims are questionable.

“It’s impossible to start disproving negative situations through government expenditure levels and employment levels,” he said. “In the end this package over-promised and under-delivered.”

Conrad said an original estimate of 2,500 trees to be planted through the grant was an error. The correct number was 2,000, with 801 purchased from the state’s Las Vegas nursery and 1,195 purchased from L.E. Cooke Co., a tree supplier to nurseries around the country. The trees cost $33.50 each for just under $70,000 total. Of the total, 220 died or were not sellable, and 235 remain to be awarded to the different entities for planting.

Tree types made available for planting included Arizona ash, black locust, desert willow, honey locust and sweet acacia, among others.

Some of the entities requesting and planting the trees includes the city of Mesquite, which received 150 trees, the city of Henderson Parks and Recreation Department which received 128 trees, and a nonprofit group See Spot Run, Inc., which created a dog park in Boulder City.

The Division of State Parks also planted 35 trees at the Mormon Fort State Park in downtown Las Vegas.

Other projects included in the nearly half million dollar stimulus funding grant were tree care classes for Spanish-speaking green-industry workers, a city/regional tree inventory, and urban canopy assessments. Funding for the tree-care classes totaled $30,000.

In a report on the project by the state Division of Forestry, two classes of five, three-hour sessions were held in November 2010 and March 2011 for the Spanish-speaking workforce. There were 510 attendees.

A request for proposals for the tree inventory was issued in July.

About 90 percent of the grant has been obligated to positions, salaries, sub-grants and projects, with about 60 percent spent so far.

According to the Nevada Division of Forestry, the recovery act provided the U.S. Department of Agriculture with $28 billion in stimulus funding, with $1.15 billion of the total allocated to the U.S. Forest Service for forest restoration, hazardous fuels reduction, construction and maintenance of facilities, trails and roads, green energy projects and grants to states, tribes and private landowners. The grant to the state Division of Forestry for the tree program came from this pot of funding.

The Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources was awarded $46 million in ARRA funding, of which the tree-planting project was one project. Nevada state agencies were awarded $3.3 billion total.

Audio clips:

Pete Sepp, vice president for communications and policy at the Washington, DC-based National Taxpayers Union, says taxpayers do not appear to have received much value from the program in terms of job creation:

080411Sepp1 :15 level of results.”

Sepp says the tree-planting project appears to be a poor value for jobs created or retained:

080411Sepp2 :23 as poor value.”

Sepp says ARRA over-promised and under-delivered:

080411Sepp3 :21 and under-delivered.”

State Assemblyman John Hambrick says (in jest) the trees are an investment that will pay off:

080411Hambrick :22 was an investment.”

Nevada Leads Nation In Size Of Its Budget Gap, National Group Reports

By Sean Whaley | 3:33 pm December 10th, 2010

CARSON CITY – When it comes to the budget problems looming for many states over the next two years, a report released this week by the National Conference of State Legislatures makes one point very clear: Nevada is No. 1, and not in a good way.

The report identifies Nevada as having the largest general fund budget gap of all the states at 32 percent next fiscal year. The report, “State Budget Update, November 2010” shows New Jersey in second place with a 26 percent gap, and North Carolina with a 20.3 percent gap.

The news for fiscal year 2012-13 is even worse, with Nevada first again with a general fund budget gap estimated at 40 percent, followed by New York at 20.4 percent.

The report says 35 states are projecting budget gaps next fiscal year, and 24 states project gaps in 2012-13, due largely to the loss of federal stimulus funds in their current spending plans.

Nevada leads the nation in its unemployment rate and in its home foreclosure rate, factors which have helped create the budget gap.

“And while state revenues are starting to pick up, the growth is unlikely to be sufficient to replace expiring American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds or cover projected increases in program areas such as Medicaid and K-12 education,” the report says.

States will face a $37.9 billion loss in federal funds next fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2011, compared to the current year, according to the Federal Funds Information for States. This is expected to make big holes in state budgets, what many state officials call the “ARRA cliff effect.”

Nevada is expected to lose about $600 million in federal stimulus funds that helped balance the current budget.

“State legislators are being realistic about the budget situations facing their states,” said William Pound, executive director of the National Conference of State Legislatures. “But how they balance their budgets could be filled with as many twists and turns as the latest Harry Potter movie.”

Nevada’s public school enrollments are expected to be nearly flat in the next two years, but the state’s Medicaid caseload is growing dramatically. General fund support for Nevada’s Medicaid program could increase by as much as 50 percent to $1.25 billion in the two-year budget that will be approved by the 2011 Legislature compared to the current budget.

Nevada is projected to have about $5.3 billion in general fund revenues to spend over the next two years, well below the current biennium. Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval said the revenue estimate means state agencies will have to cut about $1.2 billion from their two-year budgets.

Some Nevada lawmakers have called for tax increases as part of the solution for the general fund budget hole, but Sandoval has rejected any such suggestions.

Nevada’s budget problems are being made worse not only with the loss of federal stimulus funds, but because a collection of tax hikes approved by the Legislature in 2009 will expire on June 30 next year.

There was some good economic news for Nevada this week. The October gaming revenue report shows Nevada casinos took in nearly $889 million from gamblers for an 11 percent increase over October 2010. For the fiscal year to date, revenues are up 4.4 percent.

The NCSL budget gap estimates for Nevada were made before the state’s Economic Forum made its revenue projections on Dec. 1.

NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staff of the states, commonwealths and territories. It provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on pressing state issues.

Nevada’s “Actual” Unemployment Rate Hit 22.3% In Third Quarter

By Sean Whaley | 2:05 pm October 29th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s “actual” unemployment rate in the third quarter of 2010 increased to 22.3 percent from 21.5 percent in the second quarter, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows a much worse unemployment situation in Nevada and nationally because it includes workers who are too discouraged to seek employment and have given up searching, and workers employed part time for economic reasons.

The number is generated as a three-month average every quarter.

The monthly unemployment report for Nevada for September, released a week ago, showed the state’s jobless rate at 14.4 percent, unchanged from August and still the highest in the nation. But the monthly jobless report underestimates the number of unemployed because it only estimates unemployed workers who are actively seeking employment.

In citing the Bureau of Labor Statistics data when the July Nevada jobless rate was reported, the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) said: “Despite the historic run up in the unemployment rate, the reality of the recession’s impacts on Nevada’s workforce is much worse than presented.

“Use of the alternative measure of unemployment for research purposes is limited since the information is only available for the past five years, so comparisons to past recessions is not possible,” DETR reported. “But, from a policy perspective, the actual unemployment rate presents a more complete picture of what is currently occurring in the economy.”

Stacey Standish, a press information officer for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, said the numbers for the quarterly report are generated from a survey of 60,000 households nationwide. The 22.3 percent rate for Nevada, which is 16.8 percent nationally, includes part-time workers who want to work full time, and discouraged workers who have not actively sought employment over the past year, she said.

Nevada is tops in the nation in the Labor Statistics report, followed by California at 22.1 percent and Michigan at 21.3 percent.

The grim data comes out just days before the Nov. 2 general election, where the economy and jobs have been the major focus of candidates.

The state’s record high unemployment rate, combined with Congressional approval last year of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which is aimed at reducing the national jobless rate, have become major campaign issues in the Nevada Senate race between Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and GOP challenger Sharron Angle.

The effectiveness of the stimulus spending also came up in a recent debate between Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., and GOP challenger Joe Heck in the Congressional 3 race. Heck called the stimulus bill a failure at generating jobs. Titus said the state’s unemployment rate would be much worse without the jobs created through the stimulus legislation.

Both Reid and Titus are locked in dead-heat races with their opponents.

Some of the stimulus projects have also been criticized as being wasteful, including a tree planting project in Clark County first reported by the Nevada News Bureau that made a GOP list of the top 100 worst projects nationwide.

The majority of the nearly $2.5 billion stimulus funds received by the Nevada have not gone to job creating projects. The money has spent on Medicaid caseloads and jobless benefits as specified in the legislation. Three jobless related programs alone account for nearly $1.3 billion in total spending in Nevada.

The federal stimulus reporting website shows 9,300 jobs created in Nevada from the stimulus funding through June 30.

The September 2010 Nevada unemployment report showed a total of just over 1.1 million jobs in the state, nearly 24,000 fewer jobs than in September 2009.

Nevada Sen. John Ensign Defends Requests For Stimulus Money He Opposed

By Sean Whaley | 3:31 pm October 20th, 2010

CARSON CITY – U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., is defending his decision to seek stimulus money on behalf of constituents and Nevada government entities despite voting against the massive funding measure in February 2009.

The response came after documents obtained by the Center for Public Integrity showed several instances where Ensign wrote letters in support of stimulus grant requests despite voting against the $787 billion funding bill.

Jennifer Cooper, press secretary to Ensign, said: “Nevada is at a great disadvantage when it comes to federal funds returning to our state. The stimulus bill passed, and Senator Ensign voted against it because it wasn’t the right way to repair our economy.

“That said, there is a pot of money that has been allocated to states to fund programs, and Senator Ensign fights to get Nevada its fair share,” Cooper said. “He advocated on behalf of these entities, at their request, for federal grants that would have otherwise gone to states that already receive the bulk of these funds.”

The Center for Public Integrity published an article identifying “scores” of Republicans and conservative Democrats who voted against the act and subsequently sent letters supporting requests for funds by private companies and public entities. The letters were sent to the Transportation, Energy and Commerce departments.

The article, titled “Stimulating Hypocrisy: Scores of Recovery Act Opponents Sought Money Out of Public View,” includes links to letters written by members of Congress.

Some have criticized the practice, including Rob Gaudet, national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, who told the Center for Public Integrity: “The GOP should not be taking this money and spending it regardless of where it came from. They should be fighting against it with every fiber of their elected beings.”

Ensign called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act a “so-called” stimulus measure when he voted against it.

At the time of his vote, Ensign said in a press release: “Today’s vote is more of the same in Washington – spend, spend, spend. Government has a role to play, but the American people deserve a better effort than this. For Nevada, when you peel back a few layers, this bill is not as beneficial as it first looks, and it will ultimately increase taxes.”

But soon after, he was writing letters seeking those same funds on behalf of constituents.

In a letter dated June 15, 2009, Ensign wrote to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu in support of a grant application by Altair Nanotechnologies for stimulus funding for its battery technology.

Ensign said the company’s proposal to expand battery production in Reno and Anderson, Indiana, would “directly and indirectly create or save over 330 jobs in locations which have unemployment rates considerably higher than the national average. In these difficult economic times, growing jobs in the United States is vital.”

In a later dated Sept. 10, 2009, Ensign wrote to U.S. Transportation Secretary Raymond LaHood in support of an application by the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada seeking stimulus funds for a rapid transit line.

“The ability to move the community’s two million residents and nearly 40 million visitors is critical to the economic health of the region and the state,” he said.

Ensign also sent letters this past summer in support of applications by the Nevada Hospital Association and the Lyon County School District seeking stimulus funding for broadband technology.

Documents obtained by the Center for Public Integrity also includes correspondence from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.,  in support of several stimulus funding grant requests for public broadband projects. Reps. Dina Titus, D-Nev., and Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., wrote letters in support of broadband projects as well.

All three representatives voted for the stimulus bill.

There were no letters from Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who also opposed the stimulus bill.

Nevada State Controller Unveils New Website, Lists Those With Outstanding Debts To State

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 9:05 am September 10th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Nevada State Controller Kim Wallin today rolled out a new and improved public website that includes a list of businesses and individuals who owe money to the state and the amount they owe.

When state agencies are unable to collect outstanding debts, they turn these accounts over to the Controller’s office for collection. The accounts will be listed on the website and updated as old debts are paid or new debts are incurred.

“By posting the names of debtors we hope to encourage the payment of the debts and discourage others from incurring debts in the future,” Wallin said.

The new website also includes two reports devoted to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus funds coming into Nevada. The new ARRA Award Current Summary will supplement the existing quarterly ARRA Report to Our Citizens. This weekly summary provides much greater detail in a more timely manner to track exactly how the funds are being used now.

At the end of September there will also be a feature that lets people pay what they owe using a debit or credit card.

“My office receives several calls a day from people asking if they can pay by debit or credit card rather than sending a check or money order,” Wallin said. “This feature will make it easier for people to make their payments, accelerate collections and reduce the number of returned checks.” 

The Controller is the Chief Fiscal Officer (CFO) of the state and is responsible for administering the state’s accounting system, settling all claims against the state and collecting debts owed to the state. The mission of the Controller’s office is to advance accountability, continuity and efficiency in the state’s financial operations.

Fiscal Expert Says State Governments In Big Trouble

By Sean Whaley | 4:10 pm August 6th, 2010

CARSON CITY – State governments across the country are facing budget deficits and a tough economy right now, but failure to get a handle on long-term liabilities, from unfunded pensions to subsidized health care for retired workers, could jeopardize any recovery, a fiscal expert said today.

Bob Williams, founder and senior fellow of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation and a member of the ALEC board of scholars, said states may have to deal with decades of budget challenges due to employee and retiree medical costs and pension payments.

Williams spoke about these and other challenges in a teleconference from San Diego, where he is attending the American Legislative Exchange Conference (ALEC) annual meeting. Williams said a focus of the meeting will be offering practical solutions to member lawmakers from across the country on how to get a handle on these issues.

Nevada is one of many states facing these challenges.

Nevada’s public employee pension system had a long-term unfunded liability of $9.1 billion as of June 30, 2009, according to the officials who manage the program. Some independent reports suggest the liability is much higher.

The Nevada Legislature in 2009 made some modest reforms to the pension system for new hires, but the long-term liability is already on the books for current public employees when they retire.

Williams said many states mask the real extent of these liabilities using a variety of techniques, such as assuming a higher rate of returns on investments than is realistic.

“But the real crisis coming up is the unfunded retiree health care costs,” he said.

Nevada subsidizes health insurance coverage for retired state employees and their dependents.

A 2008 study commissioned by the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce estimated the cost of providing the subsidized care at $4 billion over 30 years. The state has not invested money to pay this benefit, instead using a “pay as you go” approach.

The chamber warned that failure to make major changes to the benefit will mean a shift away from funding programs such as education to pay the rising retiree health care costs. The cost of the program in 2008 was under $50 million a year.

Other budget challenges are the states’ reliance on federal stimulus funds to balance their budgets in the current and prior fiscal years, and the need to repay billions borrowed from the federal government to pay unemployment benefits, Williams said. Employers will see likely see tax hikes to repay the unemployment loans, although such moves could run many out of business, he said.

Nevada is expected to borrow as much as $1 billion to pay unemployment benefits through the end of the current recession. The state has borrowed over $450 million already.

Williams said many governors across the nation are working on the assumption that the Obama Administration will forgive the loans to states for unemployment benefits.

Williams said federal stimulus funds allowed states to spend at a higher level than they otherwise would have. But when the funding stops, states must continue the spending under “maintenance of effort” requirements.

The anticipated loss of federal stimulus funds for future budgets is a major factor in Nevada’s anticipated $3 billion-plus revenue shortfall for the upcoming two-year budget.

State government economies are not expected to recover until two years after their private sector economies recover, he said.

But the situation may be even more dire, Williams said. He cited a March U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to Congress that suggests the fiscal position of state and local governments will steadily decline through 2060, primarily due to health care costs.

The GAO report says: “The decline in the sector’s operating balance is primarily driven by rising health care costs. The fiscal challenges confronting the state and local sector add to the nation’s overall fiscal difficulties. Because most state and local governments are required to balance their operating budgets, the declining fiscal conditions shown in GAO’s simulations suggest the fiscal pressures the sector faces and the extent to which these governments will need to make substantial policy changes to avoid growing imbalances.”

Nevada GOP Official Blasts Reid For Ad Claiming To Have Saved Teacher’s Job With Stimulus Funds

By Sean Whaley | 5:05 am July 30th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Former Nevada governor and state Republican Committeeman Bob List yesterday called on Sen. Harry Reid to stop running a television ad claiming to have saved a school teacher’s job with federal stimulus funds.

List, in a conference call with media representatives, said the ad is false and attempts to divert attention from Reid’s failure to help bring Nevada out of a major recession.

“He didn’t save her job at all,” List said. “That is a false statement. He should acknowledge it and the ad should come down.”

Reid should focus on Nevada’s record high and nation-leading unemployment rate, which hit 14.2 percent in June, List said.

“The reality is, since the stimulus package was adopted on Feb. 18 of last year, 60,000 additional people in the private sector have lost their jobs in Nevada,” he said. “We now have nearly 200,000 people out of work here and you’d think that he might be addressing that problem instead of making a false claim and a boast of saving this teacher’s job when in fact he didn’t.”

The Reid campaign rejected List’s claims as uninformed and questioned GOP challenger Sharron Angle’s commitment to education.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal on Wednesday published a story about the ad, saying the teacher in question did not have her job saved from the stimulus funding approved by Congress and the President last year because the school at which she worked did not receive any recovery money.

The 30-second ad shows Ronzone Elementary School teacher Bridget Zick of Las Vegas talking about the fear of losing her job and how Reid saved Nevada teaching jobs.

The story prompted a strong response from Reid campaign spokesman Jon Summers, who criticized the Review-Journal story for being, “erroneous and reckless.”

The claim that the school didn’t get any recovery funds, “fundamentally misunderstands the nature of disbursement of the stimulus dollars and the way educators’ jobs were saved,” he said.

“The reality is that stimulus funds were distributed by district, and the Clark County School District received funds that saved an estimated 1,400 jobs,” Summers said.

Thomas Mitchell, editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, said: “We stand by the fairness of our news reporting.”

List defended the Review-Journal story as accurate and said it is Reid who has historically over time distorted facts and misrepresented reality.

Assemblyman Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, also weighed in on the dispute as a member of the Ways and Means Committee and former president of the Nevada State PTA.

“What is missing from this discussion is this: If we hadn’t received the federal stimulus funds we had three choices left, which was fire 3,500 teachers, raise taxes, or a combination of the two,” he said. “It really is that simple. The funds Nevada received avoided a huge layoff, or an equally huge tax increase. Whether Bridget Zick would have been one of the 3,500 would not have mattered to the parents whose children were no longer being taught by 3,499 other teachers.”

Reid campaign spokesman Kelly Steele said in response to List’s comments: “It’s simply irrefutable that 3,500 education workers weren’t laid off because of stimulus funding that Sen. Reid was instrumental in securing.

“The fact that Mr. List appears to have even less understanding of how stimulus funds are distributed than the shoddy journalism he cites in the Review-Journal is disappointing, but not surprising since he’s advocating for Sharron Angle, who opposes all public education funding and believes we should abolish the Department of Education.”

List said Reid should focus on Nevada’s record-setting unemployment rate.

False claims by Reid aren’t helping, he said.

“This guy would take credit for the fact that Hoover Dam hasn’t washed out if he thought he could get away with it,” List said.

Reid is locked in a battle with Angle in his bid for another term in the Senate. The race is one of the mostly closely watched contests in the nation.

___

Audio clips:

Bob List says Nevada has lost jobs since stimulus funding was approved:

072910List1 :32 fact he didn’t.”

List says Nevada faces major economic crisis under Reid’s watch:

072910List2 :13 away with it.”

List says Reid has not used his power to help Nevada:

072910List3 :27 his power effectively.”

Entire List statement:

072910List4 5:00

$490 Thousand in Federal Stimulus To Be Spent on Nevada Tree Planting, Tree-Care Classes

By Sean Whaley | 4:16 pm July 9th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Federal government efforts to create jobs through stimulus funding have expanded to encompass an urban Clark County tree planting effort and related activities, including tree care training for Spanish-speaking workers.

The Nevada Division of Forestry has received funding from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to make 2,500 trees available for free for planting by nonprofit organizations, government entities and others on urban public lands in Southern Nevada.

Money for the Nursery Greening Project comes from a $490,000 grant the U.S. Forest Service has allotted for Clark County urban tree projects, said Adria DeCorte, who is overseeing the tree-planting portion of the project for the state Forestry Division.

Other projects included in the nearly half million dollar stimulus funding grant are tree care classes for Spanish-speaking green-industry workers, a city/regional tree inventory, and urban canopy assessments. Funding for the tree-care classes totals $30,000.

When averaged out, if all the trees are planted, the cost per tree will be $196.00.

The grant has generated some criticism by those who question whether any real sustainable jobs will be created.

When told about the project, Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, said it does not sound like it will do much for job creation. It sounds more like a program sought by U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid to win votes, he said.

“It’s just unfortunate that these pork barrel things are coming forward now,” Hambrick said.

Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said in an emailed statement it is clear to him the stimulus is not working and the current economic policies are doing little to create jobs.

“My top priority in Congress is to get our economy turned around and Nevadans working again,” he said. “The government cannot spur the economy with deficit fueled spending. Funding tree planting during record drought conditions in Nevada not only is poor use of federal dollars, but makes very little sense.”

Nevada State Forester Pete Anderson said the project is in line with ARRA goals and was selected due to the unemployment rate and economic downturn in the Las Vegas area.

“The project funding has retained several jobs as well as created several more associated with care, potting, transporting and ultimately out-planting of these trees,” he said. “The project is consistent with the administration’s ARRA goals and the many benefits of a healthy urban forest, including energy conservation.”

A statement from the U.S. Forest Service said in part: “Clark County has been devastated by the current economic recession. Funds will be used to retain and create jobs to grow and plant urban trees suited to the desert southwest. Education and training for tree care workers will also be provided to plant and manage trees for public health and safety.”

Similar urban tree planting projects are under way in other states using federal stimulus money. Nearly $700,000 in stimulus funds are being spent to plant 1,500 trees in Georgia. A Pennsylvania nonprofit group received $300,000 in stimulus funds to plant 1,157 trees in 17 different municipalities to reduce pollution from storm water runoff. South Carolina is spending $850,000 on competitive grants to cities and towns in part for urban tree planting.

According to the Nevada Division of Forestry, the recovery act provided the U.S. Department of Agriculture with $28 billion in stimulus funding, with $1.15 billion of the total allocated to the U.S. Forest Service for forest restoration, hazardous fuels reduction, construction and maintenance of facilities, trails and roads, green energy projects and grants to states, tribes and private landowners. The grant to the state Division of Forestry for the tree program came from this pot of funding.

Pete Sepp, vice president for communications and policy at the Washington, DC-based National Taxpayers Union, said some of the more questionable stimulus projects are just now seeping into the public consciousness. Much of the initial stimulus funding went to specifically defined categories like unemployment assistance, he said.

“People will likely be surprised by what they see,” Sepp said. “You can select from huge panoply of very questionable projects.”

One project that saw a lot of criticism was $3.4 million for an underpass in Florida to protect turtles.

Sepp said the tree planting project will likely create temporary employment at best, except on the government payrolls.

Many of the stimulus projects do not appear to be directed at long-term job preservation or creation, he said. In many cases they were aimed at quality of life or green environmental issues, Sepp said.

“It is exactly what you are going to see more of in the very near future,” he said.

An extended payroll tax holiday might be one better way to generate job retention if not job creation in the private sector, Sepp said.

The Nevada stimulus website shows that the state Division of Forestry is expected to receive nearly $4.4 million in ARRA funding, including the $490,000 for the urban tree project.

Positions either created or anticipated for the different elements of the $490,000 grant include half a dozen individuals already hired to plant bare-root, purchased trees into pots. Two positions at the state nursery were also retained with the grant. DeCorte said her position was also created by the stimulus funds. Others will include tree planters, trainers to be hired for the Spanish-speaking tree care classes, and workers for both the tree inventory and canopy analysis.

The purpose of the tree-planting stimulus project is to increase public awareness of tree benefits, provide tree-care education, involve citizen volunteers in urban forestry programs and increase tree planting.

The stimulus funding has paid for the trees, which are at the Las Vegas State Tree Nursery in northwest Las Vegas. Applications are being accepted from various entities and groups through Aug. 27. The tree planting cannot begin until the fall. The nursery sells trees to private buyers for specific types of projects, such as wildlife habitat, for $25 each for the 15-gallon size, which is the size of the trees to be used in the tree-planting effort.

DeCorte said no applications have been received yet, but several are in the preparation stages. A panel will review the applications and decide which groups should receive what number of trees, she said. The application is five pages.

The Nursery Greening Project will provide between five and 50 trees per project. If all the trees are not allocated in the first round, a second round will be implemented. Tree varieties include Chinese elm, desert willow and black locust, among others.

All tree-planting projects must be maintained for three years. Criteria used in evaluating the applications include the retention or hiring of positions, the level of increased public awareness of tree benefits, selection and care, and level of social, economic, aesthetic, environmental or education benefits to the community.

___

audio clips:

GOP Assemblyman John Hambrick on the urban tree program:

070910Hambrick :9 of Southern Nevada.”

National Taxpayers Union spokesman Pete Sepp on questionable stimulus projects:

070910Sepp1 :27 what they see.”

Sepp on Clark County urban tree program:

070809Sepp2 :28 for those jobs.”

Nevada State Forester Pete Anderson in support of the project:

070910Anderson :31 of small businesses.”

State Launches Redesigned Stimulus Reporting Website

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 6:35 pm April 5th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Governor Jim Gibbon’s today announced that the state has redesigned its website for reporting activities related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to allow greater transparency of the stimulus program in Nevada.

“We are committed to making information about Nevada’s use of stimulus funds readily available to our residents,” the Governor said. “During these tough economic times, it’s important that our citizens know we are utilizing stimulus in the most efficient way that will help our economy and create more jobs for Nevadans.”

The website features an interactive map that displays how state agencies use Recovery Act awards by geographic regions. The map, graphs and other detailed data are directly updated by state agencies through an innovative reporting system. The system enables agencies to directly report actual project expenditures to the public.

The purpose of the improved website is to list and describe all Recovery Act funding that is allocated to Nevada, particularly the award and expenditures of funds sent directly to Nevada state government.  The site will include information on which state agencies have been awarded Recovery Act funding, and for what programs, as well as how the agencies are using the funds and where the projects are located.

Happy American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Day

By Elizabeth Crum | 11:30 am February 17th, 2010

Commemorating and commenting are, among others, the Nevada State Democratic Party and Congresswoman Shelley Berkley.

Ensign, Reid Announce US DOT Money for Reno-Sparks Project

By Elizabeth Crum | 6:45 pm February 13th, 2010

From ThisIsReno.com, a news brief on a $1.254 million US DOT grant for the Meadowood Interchange project in Reno.

Seems kinda smallish when considered in light of info in this April 2009 memo from the White House saying the project would cost $50 million and that $36.7 million in stimulus money would go to it:

Washoe County Ready to Spend $37.6M of Stimulus Money on Constructing Interchange Between Hwy 395 to Meadowood Mall, Creating 1200 Jobs. “The project on the list that slants the percentage in Washoe’s favor is construction of an interchange from U.S. Highway 395 to Meadowood Mall in Reno. To help fund that $50 million project, the Transportation Department planned on using $37.6 million from the state’s share of the stimulus funding, according to the preliminary list. The remaining money would come from the Washoe metropolitan planning organization. The project is ‘shovel ready.’ In other words it just needs money so construction can start. Transportation officials believe the two-year project could create 1,200 jobs. While there is a much needed interchange in Southern Nevada — the Cactus interchange off of Interstate 15 in the southern valley — that project is still in the design phase and won’t be ‘shovel ready’ for another couple of years. But the Transportation Department can’t wait that long because of time limits imposed on Nevada. Half the money must be spent in 120 days or it goes back to Congress.” [Las Vegas Review-Journal, 3/1/09]

Also found this August 2009 report on the project from the RGJ stating that total improvements would cost $61.8 million.  (Wonder why the price went up $11 million ‘tween April and August?)

And found this Feb. 5, 2010, LV Sun report on $26 million in stimulus funds (so, about $10 million less than originally planned) that actually went to the project:

The Nevada Department of Transportation says it has obligated all $201 million the state received in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.

The term obligated means all the projects have been put to bid.

The agency says the federal stimulus money is being used to fund 69 projects statewide, with more than $120 million going for projects in Clark County in southern Nevada.

Washoe County received about $26 million for construction of a freeway interchange at Meadowood Mall.

Reid Announces, Berkley and Titus Applaud Funding for Health Care Jobs Training

By Elizabeth Crum | 3:02 pm February 12th, 2010

KOLOTV.com has the AP story on some stimulus money announced today.  HHS will get just over $6 million, the NV Cancer Institute will get a touch over $3 million and HealthInsight of Nevada and Utah will get nearly $7 million.   Training will happen via community college nursing, lab tech and health IT programs to prepare unemployed and displaced workers for jobs.

Made me think of Janice Conway-Klassen, director of the Clinical Lab Sciences program at UNLV, who was on Ralston’s Face to Face yesterday.  She said her department runs on a budget of only $12K but might be shut down due to higher education cuts.

Klassen reminded viewers that 70% of a doctor’s diagnostic decisions are based on lab results so it is a crucial health care field. She typically trains 1o to 15 students a year but this year the program has 20, and she said her program’s job placement stats are 100% within 3 months of graduation (stellar) because there are typically 20 to 30 vacancies for these kinds of jobs in the state at any given time.

I wonder if any of this stimulus money will (or could) “trickle down” to Klassen’s program?  I’ve got a call in to her office and will update if I hear back.

Will Poor Harry Reid Get a Reaction Retraction?

By Elizabeth Crum | 5:19 pm February 11th, 2010

Team Tarkanian’s daily dose of Reid-slam:

REPUBLICAN U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE DANNY TARKANIAN STATEMENT ON TAX INCREASES/IPOD GIVEAWAYS

For Immediate Release: February 12, 2010

Contact: press@tark2010.org

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Danny Tarkanian reacted to reports that the Obama administration may be willing to ask the Senate to pass middle class tax increases, and to reports that stimulus funds are being used to fund iPod giveaways in Florida:

“Today’s news is further evidence that Harry Reid and his establishment tax and spend allies in Washington have no regard for the average Nevada taxpayer. While Nevadans are struggling every day to make ends meet, Washington is talking about raising their taxes while their tax dollars are reportedly funding iPod giveaways in Florida. Today’s taxpayer-funded iPod giveaway may be ‘music to the ears’ of certain Floridians, but it’s another example of Harry Reid’s ‘tone-deaf’ attitude towards the everyday concerns of his own constituents.”

What’s funny is that when I clicked the “stimulus funds” link, it took me to an updated story with this correction at the end:

Correction: Wednesday, Bay News 9 reported that our newspaper partners at the Ledger said it was federal stimulus money that was paying for the iPods. Thursday, the Ledger ran a correction saying the money is for programs specifically aimed at developmentally disabled students and is separate from federal stimulus dollars.

Wonder if Team Tark will run a retraction/apology?

Update (6:42 p.m.):  From Team Tark who I assume saw me Tweet about the Retraction:

Now that the Florida website has updated the story, we see that the change is that the iPods were paid from yet another government program aside from the stimulus funds.

But with or without iPods, the stimulus is still a failed pork-filled taxpayer-funded slush fund that you passed using empty promises of jobs for Nevada.

Now we expect Senator Reid will likewise immediately acknowledge his error, retract the stimulus and apologize to Nevada.

Still waiting…

Nice save.

Nevada Transportation Department Obligates All Road Project Stimulus Funds

By Sean Whaley | 1:28 pm February 5th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s Transportation Department, which came in for some criticism last year for what was described as a slow start to spending its share of federal stimulus money, announced this week that all of its funds have now been obligated a month ahead of schedule.

The commitment of the $201 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act highway funds puts Nevada with Maine and Wyoming as the three states that have now obligated 100 percent of their funds, and comes almost a year to the date the money was made available.

“We are proud to have obligated all of our funds that not only provided an economic boost to Nevada but also funded much needed highway projects in all 17 counties,” said Transportation Department Director Susan Martinovich. “NDOT put a lot of hard work into meeting this deadline ahead of schedule and it was truly a cooperative effort between the state, Clark and Washoe County Regional Transportation Commissions, Nevada Association of Counties and all the local governmental agencies.”

Department spokesman Scott Magruder said the obligation of the funds means that Nevada will get its full share of funding. Some projects are still out to bid, and some won’t be put out to bid until next month, he said. But every project will be under way by May at the latest.

“When we say obligated, we mean the money is in the bank,” Magruder said.

Of the $201 million that Nevada received as part of the federal ARRA highway funding, all 17 counties received funding totaling 69 projects statewide. More than $120 million went to projects in Clark County and an estimated $26 million is going to the construction of the I-580/Meadowood Interchange project in Washoe County.

Magruder said the Meadowood project is expected to start construction in May.

Some of the highway improvement projects statewide benefiting motorists include: an estimated $30.4 million resurfacing of U.S. 95 from S.R. 156 to S.R. 157 in Clark County; a $12.4 million resurfacing of I-80 in Pershing County; and an $11.8 million resurfacing of U.S. 93 in White Pine County.

Last year Democrats criticized Gov. Jim Gibbons for what it said was a failure to get projects out to bid quickly. The criticism was rejected as being inaccurate.

“We were never in a race,” Magruder said. “There are a lot of parts that go into getting a project out. We’re not going to lose any of the money. That’s for sure.”

NDOT has also kept track of non-government employees working on the stimulus projects on a month-by-month basis. It shows 549 jobs with a payroll of $1.7 million in October; 349 jobs and a payroll of $585,000 in November; and 299 jobs with a payroll of $410,000 in December.

Magruder said those totals will increase as the winter weather comes to an end and the last of the stimulus projects get under way.

Heller Says Federal Stimulus Funds Not Helping Economy

By Sean Whaley | 3:44 pm November 12th, 2009

CARSON CITY – Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said today the federal stimulus program is not working because it is creating short-term public jobs, not sustainable private sector employment.

In an appearance on the Nevada NewsMakers program, Heller said only six percent of the stimulus funds went to roads and bridges where private sector jobs are actually created.

“If that would have been in the 50 to 60 percent range that would have gone to roads and bridges I’d have been more apt to have supported it,” he said of the stimulus bill. “But to know it just went to a bunch of pork projects out there and earmarks, to me I knew it was not going to be a program that was going to actually stimulate this economy.”

The state and national unemployment rates have continued to rise during the stimulus funding effort, even though the Obama Administration said the rate would level off at eight percent with the program, Heller said.

That is why Heller said he did not support the stimulus funding even though it has brought money to northern Nevada, including $2 million for the V&T Railroad reconstruction project from Virginia City to Carson City.

Heller said his choice to stimulate the economy would have been to cut the payroll tax in half across the country.

“Let’s be competitive in this country,” he said. “Our corporate taxes in this country are so uncompetitive. That’s where I would start, is try to make our country as competitive as other countries around the world.”