On a blogger conference call earlier today, representatives from AFSCME, Economic Policy Institute and Progressive States called for a major grassroots push to secure critical aid for fiscally distressed state governments and help tackle the jobs crisis.
While aid to state and local governments was included in the House jobs bill that passed in December, it is not included in the tiny jobs bill currently on the Senate floor.
What are the prospects in the Senate for additional legislation? AFSCME Legislative Director Charles Loveless described the legislative landscape in the Senate as “extremely unsettled.”
He noted the possibility of forthcoming Senate legislation that would extend stimulative aid for Medicaid (also known as FMAP), unemployment insurance and COBRA health insurance for six months. But he also stressed that it was not clear if 60 Senate votes were in hand to prevent any filibusters even if such a bill were introduced.
EPI’s Ethan Pollack made the case that closing the massive $469 billion state and city budget gap mainly helps save private sector jobs.
When states have sufficient Medicaid funding, more people use private health care services. When states can properly maintain and improve their infrastructure, private construction companies and suppliers reap the benefits. When towns can afford to keep their police officers, firefighters and teachers, they purchase privately made cars, trucks and textbooks.
The boon to the private sector is the critical point to make, albeit difficult when the subject is aid to governments.
if the public wrongly views the state aid issue as a “bailout” to reckless states, there’s no way 60 votes can be secured. But once it is understood that states are simply trapped under the weight of the recession, and private sector jobs are threatened, winning the support of a Senate supermajority is more plausible.
That’s our job, if we are to resolve the jobs crisis. After this week’s vote on the tiniest of jobs bills, we still need to press the Senate to pass a real jobs bill.