A vote in the Michigan Senate Wednesday could have big consequences for the upcoming battle over the use of federal stimulus funding.
The senate voted Wednesday to create a special committee to oversee the use of stimulus money. The GOP claims the committee will ensure spending transparency for taxpayers. Democrats, however, feel the committee is redundant and a waste of time and money. The vote was a 21-16 affair along party lines.
The federal stimulus package gives significant leeway to state governments when spending the money. For example, Michigan has almost 900 million dollars allocated for transportation improvements. The state, however, has the ability to pick and choose which projects it wants to fund, and this inevitably will lead to political battles. Before Wednesday's new committee, the Appropriations Committee was charged with looking at the federal formulas and allocating the money. Now, Republicans have signalled that any appropriations bill emerging house will be closely scrutinized by the Senate, and the stimulus funding battle will be especially critisized.
The fact that Michigan Republicans will be fighting to influence the use of stimulus money is not suprising. However, the creation of this new committee, designed exclusively to study stimulus spending, signals that Senate Republicans are gearing up for a long, protracted battle over the stimulus dollars. Expect this years battle to rival or exceed previous years in partisan rhetoric..