Washington to get at least $3 billion jolt to the economy

OLYMPIA – Washington will gain at least $3 billion and see 75,000 jobs saved or created through the federal stimulus package before Congress, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray said this afternoon.

“This is a significant step forward. This is the jolt to the economy the president says we need,” Murray said in a conference call with reporters.

Murray, who was joined on the call by Gov. Chris Gregoire, said she did not know precisely how much money will come to the state.

That figure could become clearer later today when most details of the final bill are due to be released.

The U.S. House of Representatives is proceeding toward a vote on Friday on the $790 billion package of tax cuts and new spending. The Senate could act Friday or Saturday.

Murray said the bill should bring the state roughly $2 billion in Medicaid funding, $500 million for roads and highways and $175 million for transit. Washington will also be in line for funding for ferries and clean up of nuclear waste at the Hanford nuclear reservation.

Gregoire said this package will help schools avert spending cuts and teacher layoffs. It also will help the state avoid slashing social service and health care programs as it deals with a projected $5.7 billion deficit in the next budget, she said.

“We need help and we need it now and I can’t tell you how much that that call has been heard,” she said.

Murray cautioned against viewing the economic plan as the solution to the nation’s fiscal crisis.

“We are not out of the woods,” she said, citing a need to confront crises in the housing and lending industries. “All of us know this is not just job well done and go home.”

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