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The Associated Press September 19, 2011, 3:58PM ET

Obama jobs plan to direct billions in Pa. spending

Transportation, education and the unemployed would benefit from more than $3 billion in spending in Pennsylvania if President Barack Obama's American Jobs Act proposal is passed, according to figures from the White House.

The largest single category would be at least $1.37 billion to modernize the states' roads and mass transit systems, an outlay that the White House says could support at least 17,900 jobs.

Gov. Tom Corbett and legislative leaders are considering the recommendations of a transportation funding advisory commission that issued a report last month, and could enact a separate plan during the fall session of the General Assembly that got under way on Monday.

Bob Latham with Associated Pennsylvania Constructors, a road and bridge construction trade group headquartered in Harrisburg, said the Corbett panel's ideas about longer-term funding are preferable. Latham was part of the commission that endorsed a mix of revenues to reach $2.5 billion in annual spending.

"People are always surprised when I say I don't want your money, but our position, our thinking is that really what is needed is a long-term, comprehensive funding package," Latham said. "The president's plan, as we see it, is ... short-term, one-time funding for things like grants, borrowing, etc., and as far as job creation, a steady market, a predictable market into the future is what will cause engineering firms, design firms, construction companies and materials producers to hire people."

The Pennsylvania School Boards Association was more supportive of Obama's plan, which would dedicate about $944 million on school upgrades, as well as $1.16 billion to help Pennsylvania school districts prevent laying off teachers. It also includes money for local governments to hire police and firefighters.

Public schools took a substantial funding hit in the budget that Corbett and the Legislature passed this summer, and are facing higher pension, health care and fuel costs, said PSBA spokesman Steve Robinson.

"While we've not seen the details yet of the president's plan, in general, any aid that can be provided to Pennsylvania public schools would be welcome," Robinson said.

The proposal for federal school construction spending follows the enactment of new state rules that will require more Pennsylvania school construction projects to go before voters for direct approval, Robinson said.

"It's going to be more difficult, in the future, for schools to fund buildings without going to their taxpayers," he said. "Which is OK, but the public may not see the need for those buildings, and vote down those kinds of ... tax increases."

The state's community colleges would be in line for about $113 million to modernize their facilities, and Pennsylvania also could get about $20 million as part of a push to refurbish vacant and foreclosed homes and businesses under the Obama plan.

The changes Obama wants to make to the unemployment insurance system are designed to help the state's 211,000 long-term unemployed workers.

Corbett's office did not return a phone message seeking comment about the president's proposal.

Obama wants to cut payroll taxes and provide greater incentives for companies to add workers, as well as spend tens of billions on public works, jobless benefits and public-sector hiring. The White House says 230,000 Pennsylvania companies would get a payroll tax cut.

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