City officials nationwide are urging their representatives in Congress to support federal legislation that backers say would save and create up to one million jobs.
Colorado Springs city leaders won't be among them.
A City Council majority is opposed to the Local Jobs for America Act, saying it would create new deficit spending and leave the city in a lurch when the money runs out.
“We’re having to suck it up. The federal government should, too,” said Mayor Lionel Rivera, who asked council members Monday whether he should sign a letter asking Congressman Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, and others to support the legislation.
The bill, HR 4812, was introduced by House Education and Labor Committee chairman Rep. George Miller, a California Democrat. The bill has 159 co-sponsors but is still in the House, committee spokesman Aaron Albright said today in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C.
“We’re just building support within the Democratic caucus right now,” he said.
Albright, who has heard about the Springs’ money problems, said the city stands to receive about $42.8 million under the bill.
Critics have called the $100 billion bill a “bailout scam,” but the National League of Cities and others say it will put people to work.
“Without something like the Local Jobs for America (Act), there’s going to be serious impacts on most cities, not at the edges, but at the very core of what cities do,” said Ronald Loveridge, mayor of the city of Riverside, Calif., and president of the NLC.
Only Councilwoman Jan Martin and Councilman Scott Hente wanted the mayor to sign and send the letter.
“I understand that some of these may not be sustainable positions, but I also think it’s a mistake for us to bow out of some possibilities for the community, especially right now,” Martin said during Monday’s council meeting.
Hente said other cities would take the money if Colorado Springs didn’t.
“We can have this philosophical discussion about should it or should it not add to the federal deficit,” Hente said. “Of course it shouldn’t add. But it’s going to be done.”
Hente’s remarks triggered a strong reaction from Councilman Sean Paige.
“This is one of the major reasons we have blown out federal deficits,” Paige said.
“Everybody thinks it’s somebody else’s money, and everybody else is feeding at the trough, so we should, too,” he said. “In small ways, we as a city need to start to say no.”
City spokesman Tim Burke, who handles legislative matters, said the National League of Cities contacted Colorado Springs about the bill and asked the city to draft a letter in support.
“The Local Jobs for America Act is an important short-term step toward keeping police officers and firefighters on the job, and restoring other important services that have been cut,” according to the letter, which was presented to Rivera for consideration.
Vice Mayor Larry Small said residents may not understand when the city has to cut services or let go of employees after funding from such legislation runs out.
“It’s titled Local Jobs for America Act. But it’s ‘Local Jobs in the Bureaucracy for America Act.’ Isn’t that really what it is?” Small said. ”And (the jobs are) not sustainable. We’ve been through this over and over again where we get funding for jobs and then we can’t sustain them.”
Gregory Minchak, a spokesman for the National League of Cities, said the bill doesn’t require governments to keep people employed after the money dries up. Minchak said he would not “insert” himself in Colorado Springs politics, but he said the bill is designed to provide financial assistance to cities wrestling with budget pressures.
“Local officials do what they think is in the best interest of their cities,” he said.
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