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Sunday, December 7

Obama Pledges Public Works Projects

Some pretty good news from the president elect:

NY TIMES WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama promised Saturday to create the largest public works construction program since the inception of the interstate highway system a half century ago as he seeks to put together a plan to resuscitate the reeling economy.

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Although Mr. Obama put no price tag on his plan, he said he would invest record amounts of money in the vast infrastructure program, which also includes work on schools, sewer systems, mass transit, electrical grids, dams and other public utilities. The green jobs would include various categories, including jobs dedicated to creating alternative fuels, windmills and solar panels; building energy efficient appliances, or installing fuel-efficient heating or cooling systems.

Paul Bledsoe, a former Clinton White House energy adviser, said that Mr. Obama had now settled whatever debate there was in his transition team and among Democrats in Congress over how to lift the economy in the short term and over a longer horizon.

“It’s now clear that Obama intends to stimulate the economy through large direct government spending on infrastructure projects as well as through business and individual tax cuts,” said Mr. Bledsoe, now an official of the National Commission on Energy Policy, a nonpartisan research group in Washington. “He is advocating things like guaranteeing every American a college education, wiring the entire country for Internet, putting in a smart electric grid. If he can do it, these will be major systemic advantages for the United States in the competitive global economy.

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Mr. Obama and his team are working with Congressional leaders to devise a spending package that some lawmakers suggest could total $400 billion to $700 billion. Some analysts forecast even higher costs. Mr. Obama has said he would direct his team to come up with a plan to save or create 2.5 million jobs in the first two years of his administration.

A big part of that will be public works spending. “We will create millions of jobs by making the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s,” Mr. Obama said. He did not estimate how much he would devote to that purpose, but when he met with the nation’s governors last week, they said the states had $136 billion worth of road, bridge, water and other projects ready to go as soon as money became available. They estimated that each billion dollars spent would create up to 40,000 jobs.

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