President Barack Obama pushes his economic stimulus package in a February speech in Elkhart, Ind. (Charles Dharapak / Associated Press)
Washington -- In his first 100 days, President Barack Obama has tried to jump-start Michigan's troubled economy by pumping at least $18.4 billion in federal aid and tax breaks into the state and steering a massive restructuring aimed at keeping Michigan's auto industry alive.
Money from the economic recovery package that Congress passed and Obama signed in February will have created or saved 109,000 jobs in the state by the end of 2010, the White House projects.
Some of the earliest jobs will be seen in the road construction sector: Michigan will receive more than $1 billion to overhaul its transportation system, including $847 million for highways and bridges.
Tom Clementson of Indian River, laid off from his road construction profession in November 2007, hopes Obama's efforts will turn his unemployment check into a paycheck.
"You can't expect everything to turn around in just 100 days," Clementson said. "I'm willing to give the guy some time. At least he's trying."
Even before his 100 days started, Obama faced the money problems of the auto industry, getting briefings and working in consultation with the Bush administration on a plan to loan General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC $17.4 billion.
Obama has taken a tough stand with automakers, rejecting GM's and Chrysler's viability plans on March 30 and their requests for $21.6 billion in additional aid. He forced out GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner.
But he has also approved a number of programs for the auto industry -- $2 billion more for GM, a $5 billion program to aid struggling auto suppliers and a $1.25 billion program to guarantee the warranties of GM or Chrysler vehicles if either company files for bankruptcy.
He set an April 30 deadline for Chrysler and June 1 deadline for GM to complete tough new restructuring plans.
Action on tailpipe emissions
Obama's dealings with the auto industry extend beyond deciding how to keep the American car industry vital.
On his sixth day as president, he ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to review a request from California and 13 other states to impose a 30 percent reduction in tailpipe emissions by 2016 and directed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to set only the model year 2011 fuel efficiency standards by March 31, in accordance with a 2007 energy law.
On March 30, NHTSA imposed the Bush administration's proposed regulation, putting off a decision on much higher requirements until March 2010, when the agency is expected to set the 2012-15 model year requirements.
And on April 17, the EPA declared that carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases were a danger to public health, and said it would regulate tailpipe emissions unless Congress acted -- the latest area of increased regulatory scrutiny of automakers.
Obama earmarked some of the stimulus money for automakers, including $2 billion for battery research, and agreed to buy 17,600 cars from Detroit's Big Three with $285 million in stimulus money. The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, calculates that the Recovery Act will result in at least $18.4 billion for the state by the end of 2010.
That includes $1.9 billion in tax breaks for individuals, the White House says.
'Major infusion to the state'
Michigan also expects to use hundreds of millions of dollars to plug part of its budget deficit this year, which is approaching $800 million, and next year.
"This is a major infusion to the state," Charles Ballard, an economist at Michigan State University, said of the stimulus package. "It's of the right magnitude, both for Michigan and the nation as a whole. And it helps those most at risk."
Workers will be hired for a $243 million weatherization program that will fix leaky roofs and add insulation to homes of low-income residents.
And part of the nearly $2.6 billion for education can be used to avoid teacher layoffs.
Help for poor, jobless
Funding to help the needy includes $2.6 million for two new Community Health Centers, $8.5 million to expand services at 29 established centers, $3.1 million to feed low-income seniors and $6.6 million for vaccines for the poor.
The state also is receiving $2.3 billion to shoulder rising demand on its Medicaid health plan for the poor. Jobless benefits, which had been set to expire at the end of March, instead are extended through the year, and workers will receive $100 a month more than they received previously.
To help jobless workers keep their health insurance, the federal government is also subsidizing COBRA coverage by picking up 65 percent of the cost.
Other help for the poor will come in the expansion of the SCHIP program -- known as MiChild in Michigan -- which will mean 74,000 additional low-income children in the state will have health care. But smokers were hit with higher taxes -- 61 cents on each pack of cigarettes -- to pay for it.
And the omnibus appropriations bill Obama signed includes $179 million in earmarks for Michigan, including $17 million to start construction of a commercial shipping lock at the Soo Locks in the Upper Peninsula, as well as $3.8 million for a business redevelopment plan for Tiger Stadium, and $950,000 for runway and taxiway improvements at Oakland County International Airport.
Obama's fingerprints will also be seen on the state's public lands.
The Omnibus Public Land Management Act that he signed established the River Raisin Battlefield in Monroe as part of the National Park System, moving it closer to becoming a world-class tourist attraction; designated 12,000 acres in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula as a wilderness area; and authorized the federal government to buy land for the North Country Scenic Trail, which will be the country's longest hiking trail.
Budget outline OK'd
A top senator says Barack Obama's Democratic allies in Congress have sealed an agreement on a budget outline for next year that endorses the president's goals of expanded health care and more money for education and clean energy.
The agreement announced late Monday by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad would make it easier for Congress to pass subsequent legislation overhauling the U.S. health care system and advance other Obama goals.
The North Dakota Democrat forced some cuts in Obama's domestic agenda in an effort to drive down the deficit, and congressional Democrats opted not to extend Obama's $400 tax cut for most workers after it expires next year. The budget is nonbinding, but sets outlines for follow-up legislation.