Obama in Ohio marks 'stimulus' projects
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COLUMBUS -- Saying Ohioans are building their future as they rebuild their roads, President Barack Obama briefly set foot on Buckeye soil yesterday to mark the start of the 10,000th road project funded with federal stimulus dollars.
Bulldozers, hard hats and an orange construction sign proclaiming "Putting Americans Back to Work" served as the backdrop, as the president touted the $787 billion package that was passed almost entirely with Democratic votes last year and has been made Exhibit One for deficit spending by Republicans.
"Repairing our existing infrastructure is not enough. We can't build an economy that sustains our kids and grandkids just by relying on the infrastructure that we inherited from our parents and grandparents," Mr. Obama told a small crowd mainly of construction workers and media.
He was at the construction site just outside downtown Columbus for about 15 minutes, arguing that the nation's economy is on the rebound. It marked the president's eighth visit since taking office to a state considered crucial to his hopes of retaining the White House in 2012. It was his second time in Columbus to hail the 2009 stimulus package.
"I'm under no illusion that we're where we need to be yet," Mr. Obama said. "I know a lot of families have yet to feel the effects of the recovery in their own lives. There are still too many people here in Ohio and across the country who can't find work. Many more can't make ends meet. To these folks, the only jobs that we create that matter are the ones that provide for their families."
The Columbus stop at the road project, linked to a massive expansion of Nationwide Children's Hospital, kicked off a tour by the president and his administration to promote summer construction jobs funded by stimulus money. The tour will bring Vice President Joseph R. Biden to Midland, Mich., for Monday's groundbreaking of an advanced battery manufacturing facility.
Mr. Obama drew chuckles from the crowd when he briefly paraphrased his vice president's remark at the health care bill's signing three months ago. "This is a big deal," the president said, leaving out the expletive Mr. Biden had whispered then, within range of a microphone that picked up his comment.
Mr. Obama's Ohio appearance occurred just hours after the state announced that May's unemployment rate dropped to 10.7 percent from April's 10.9 percent in April. Ohio's jobless rate is a full percentage point higher than the national average.
State Auditor Mary Taylor, running mate of Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich, suggested that the stimulus package was largely creating jobs in government, not the private sector. "If I could be so bold ... I could recommend to the president and to the governor that they might better use their time plugging the [Gulf of Mexico's leaking] oil well and plugging the budget hole,"' she told reporters in a conference call. "Quite frankly, what we have in Ohio and what we have in this country is a lack of leadership and misplaced priorities."
To date, Ohio has received $1.5 billion in transportation stimulus dollars. The Department of Transportation said that, as of last month, some 7,000 construction workers were receiving paychecks worth $8.5 billion thanks to the stimulus investment.
The $15 million road project Mr. Obama touted as a milestone just east of the city's downtown is expected to create 325 construction jobs for the road, sidewalk, signaling and other improvements -- all tied to expansion of the Nationwide Children's Hospital that will include a $740 million pediatric care and research facility, set to open in 2012.
"This is more than just a project to repair a road," Mr. Obama said. "It's a partnership to transform a community. ... The city's using the recovery dollars to rebuild the infrastructure. And because of that, in part, the hospital is expanding its operations to take better care of more children here in Columbus and Ohio, which means they're hiring more people. Together, you're bringing more than 2,300 new jobs."
First Published June 19, 2010 12:00 am