$1.7B may flow into Colorado | VailDaily.com

$1.7B may flow into Colorado

Miles Moffeit
The Denver Post

While lawmakers hustled late Wednesday to identify Colorado’s share of the federal government’s $789 billion economic-recovery plan, the latest estimates show approximately $1.7 billion flowing to the state this year.

That number, parsed from the $838 billion package approved Tuesday by the U.S. Senate, is certain to come down along with the compromise’s lower overall price tag.

How much is unclear because the formulas for reducing elements of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 weren’t immediately known.

Members of the state’s congressional delegation hoped that the rapid settlement signaled that the cuts don’t run too deep.

“I’m grateful that Republicans and Democrats found the sweet spot and could agree on making some adjustments but still keep the total cost under $800 billion,” said Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat who helped broker compromises between the two parties during the week.

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“They also restored some of the investments in school construction and the state stabilization fund,” Udall said.

Under the untrimmed plan that went to the conference committee Wednesday, among Colorado’s big winners are educational institutions and programs, according to a breakdown released by the Senate.

Local school districts, universities and colleges would receive a large share of an $827.9 million allotment as a “reward for meeting key education performance measures.”

They also would be given funding for safety and other needs.

Roughly $675 million would go toward state infrastructure improvements. Of that, about $425.8 million would be used to fund highway, rail and other jobs eligible under the federal government’s Surface Transportation Program. An additional $122.1 million investment would go to mass transit.

Under a category of “protecting the vulnerable,” Congress wants to funnel about $157 million to the disadvantaged children and the poor through nutrition programs, care services and community-services block grants. Head Start programs alone would receive $4 million.

Also, law enforcement could win to the tune of $25 million in grants for combating Internet crimes and violence against women, among other efforts.

Lawmakers predicted that they wouldn’t know how firm the numbers are until midday today.

Meanwhile, Gov. Bill Ritter applauded the quick compromise, his spokesman said, adding that the stakes are too high to drag out the process out for too long.

“This is tremendous forward progress,” said the spokesman, Evan Dreyer. “We needed to move quickly to inject this into the economy and let those dollars start to work to create jobs.”

Prospective Colorado homebuyers also could benefit from the stimulus bill.

Brian Chappelle, a partner with Potomac Partners in Washington, D.C., said provisions in the latest stimulus draft lifted the size limits on mortgages made through government channels.

In Denver, the increase should be from about $360,000 to $406,000 on FHA loans, estimates Chappelle, a mortgage industry consultant.

The higher limits would allow more homeowners to finance or refinance mortgages at rates below 5.5 percent, compared with interest rates of around 7 percent for “jumbo” mortgages that exceed the government limits.

Staff writer Aldo Svaldi contributed to this report. Miles Moffeit: 303-954-1415 or mmoffeit@denverpost.com

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