State Republicans rail against stimulus package (Tulsa World)

by: JIM MYERS, World Washington Bureau

Saturday, February 07, 2009
2/7/2009 1:21:41 PM

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WASHINGTON -- Oklahoma Republicans began lining up against an agreement Saturday worked out in the Senate on a massive economic package of spending and tax cuts.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe conceded, however, the proposal pushed by President Obama to stimulate the economy will pass.

"It is just outrageous,'' Inhofe said. "The amounts are just obscene.''

He dismissed the agreement worked out by a small bipartisan group of senators as "cover'' for those who want to vote for a package.

Although he probably would have voted against any final product, Inhofe wanted to boost the funding for highways and other infrastructure.

That effort died when the compromise was announced.

Citing e-mails, phone calls and faxes now flooding his offices, Inhofe said Americans are speaking out more against the package.

"They can rest assured that my vote remains an unwavering ‘no,’” he said.

Rep. John Sullivan agreed infrastructure spending should be increased in the package.

"It is being sold as a jobs creation bill,'' Sullivan said.

On the tax side, he said, more needs to be done to help individuals and small businesses.

"They need something immediately,'' Sullivan said.

He suggested a change in the payroll tax could provide the kind of meaningful relief that is needed.

"That is something we see on the pay check,'' Sullivan said.

Rep. Tom Cole said a temporary phase out of both the payroll tax and the capital gains tax should be considered.

On the spending side, Cole said, the agreement in the Senate does not go far enough to ease his skepticism that some of the so-called temporary programs will become permanent.

"There are still too many longtime programs that we are going to fund for two years,'' he said.

As an example, Cole asked, can college students who have been receiving Pell grants be told that money will no longer be available in two years?

He predicted such spending will be built into the budget.

Both Sullivan and Cole voted against the House version of the package.

Announced Friday night, the agreement in the Senate is expected to get its first procedural vote on Monday.

Its price tag has been put at $780 billion, but even supporters concede that is a moving target.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, one of the four senators who hammered out the compromise, said it reduces the Senate proposal by more than $100 billion by cutting out spending that has no place in an emergency bill.

The biggest changes came in the education area, but supporters repeatedly pointed out that the money that remained in the bill would be new funding for these programs.