Republican News

Republican News

 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE              CONTACT: ROBERT DILLON (202) 224-6977
MARCH 4, 2010                                           or ANNE JOHNSON (202) 224-7875  
                                 
Sen. Murkowski Raises Concerns Over DOE Stimulus Spending
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today made the following statement at an oversight hearing on the Department of Energy’s use of stimulus funds:
 
Good morning, Chairman Bingaman, and thank you for holding this important oversight hearing.  I’d also like to thank our witnesses for appearing to share their experiences and expertise with us.
 
As many of you know, I did not support the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act last year.  During Senate debate on it, I detailed many of my concerns, including those related to energy – that it was not “timely, targeted, and temporary” as hoped; that “green jobs” and “shovel-ready” projects would not materialize as promised; and that unprecedented federal spending was not the only way to overcome our economic challenges. 
 
As we saw two weeks ago, on the first anniversary of the bill, there is still tremendous division over whether the bill is accomplishing what it was intended to accomplish. 
 
Fortunately, we’re not here to debate the entire stimulus, just one part of it. The Department of Energy received nearly $37 billion, and this hearing gives us an opportunity to determine whether those funds are being disbursed in a timely and effective manner. 
 
So far, I have to say that I’m disappointed with the Department’s record, as DOE has actually spent just over seven percent of its funding in the past year.  To find the Department on the “Stimulus Spending Progress” webpage that ProPublica has developed, you have to look at the very bottom, because it’s in next-to-last place among federal agencies. 
 
As much as anything else, it appears to be bureaucratic delays that have hampered spending.  And, to no one’s surprise, much of that appears to be the result of decisions made here in Congress.  As the old joke goes, it looks like Congress cut red tape alright, only sideways. 
 
Weatherization, a tried and true program that already exists within DOE, has barely made a splash.  And even some of the areas where spending is occurring have come under fire.  Researchers found that 80 percent of renewable energy grants have been awarded to foreign companies, including nearly $200 million awarded to a “bankrupt Australian company that built a Texas wind farm using turbines made by a Japanese company.”
 
The Congressional Budget Office’s estimated spendout rates, projected a very low spendout rate last year that will increase to just 22 percent this fiscal year. 
 
I’m also mindful that the stimulus’ effectiveness depends not only on how much money is spent, but also when it is spent.  Some of our nation’s best economists have told us, over and over, that time is of the essence.  And they’re right.  We’ve seen the cost of last year’s stimulus balloon by $75 billion.  I believe that’s at least partially because of the slow pace of expenditures under this Act, particularly at agencies like DOE. 
 
With unemployment remaining near 10 percent, many Members are already proposing new legislation in an attempt to create jobs.  Here in this committee, that is going to be an interesting debate.  We’re more than a year into a program that was pitched as capable of getting the economy back on track, but only seven percent of the “timely, targeted, and temporary” funding given to the Department of Energy has actually been spent.
 
So, Mr. Chairman, this hearing clearly comes at a critical juncture, and I hope we hear some good news from our witnesses today.  Before Congress commits to new spending, and even greater deficits, we need to make sure we’ve learned from our recent experiences in order to make the best possible decisions for our country and our constituents.
 
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For further information, please contact Robert Dillon at 202.224.6977 or Robert_dillon@energy.senate.gov or Anne Johnson at 202.224.7875 or anne_johnson@energy.senate.gov.