Friday, March 20, 2009

How stimulated will Delaware be?

The WNJ only lays out who is receiving what, and--not too amazing--fails to attempt any analysis.

So le't help them out, to find out the big winners in the stimulus lottery.

Here are the eleven largest recipients

US Army Corps of Engineers: $18,965,000
DelDot: $7,030,000
Delaware State University: $3,617,250
University of Delaware: $3,071,250
Delaware River Basin Commission: $2,600,000
State of Delaware (agency unspecified): $2,250,000
Jobs for Delaware Graduates: $1,353,000
New Castle County: $898,000
Delaware State Police: $600,000
Coastal Hydraulics Laboratory: $500,000
Delaware Aerospace Foundation: $500,000

Several notes:

1) The US Army Corps of Engineers and DelDot being the two largest recipients on the list is hardly surprising, as these are the types of infrastructure projects touted by the administration and Keynesian economists.

2) The combined largess provided to the two state universities makes higher education the second-largest beneficiary from the stimulus package. The projects funded are, for the most part, straight research. What you may not know is that both universities will scoop 35-44% off the top of those grants for indirect expenses. This means they will be using about $2,675,400 of the $6,688,550 to pay their electric bills, subsidize the salaries of existing support personnel, and purchase supplies for the general benefit of the universities--that's what indirect expenses means to high education. Moreover, DSU, which claimed before the JFC that a state cut of 15% to its funding (about $5,700,000) would place it on the road to going out of business, is not only receiving sufficient funds to offset 60% of that potential cut, but is using $190,000 to establish a new Pharmacy School. Pretty interesting for an institution that poormouths its inability to pay for existing programs to the General Assembly.

3) The Delaware State Police take in the stimulus program, just incidentally, almost exactly matches the cut the organization will be taking by grounding that plane used to transport VIPs and extradited prisoners (why not sell it, by the way, if it can be safely grounded?). So in exchange for giving up a mostly ceremonial plane, the DSP gets an additional $600K to buy new cameras and computer equipment. Cool.

4) Delaware Aerospace Foundation ($500,000) and the Delaware Children's Museum ($190,000) are both receiving funds for new museums or public exhibits, while we are simultaneously shutting down two existing museums run by the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs. That makes a hell of a lot of sense, doesn't it? Shut down two State-run museums to save a quarter-million bucks and then invest nearly $700K to build two new ones.

5) What's missing here? Not a single penny of the stimulus money is being spent to repair, renovate, or build new public school facilities in the State. Not a single penny to improve the crumbling prison infrastructure. Instead, we need to pay for

A 13-mile recreation trail along the Canal
Two outdoor aerospace exhibits
A new nursing school for Beebee
A renovated nursing school for Wesley College
License-plate scanning technology for New Castle County
The Delaware Children's Museum
A new pharmacy school at DSU
Laboratory equipment for Del Tech
Downtown surveillance cameras for Newark

While I am sure that each of these projects has its champions, the sad fact is that within the stimulus program there is only $380,000 devoted to public education, while DSU, UD, Del Tech, and Wesley managed to take home $6.997K between them.

Worse, the $380,000 for public education all goes to the Department of Education, not the school districts themselves.

What could reasonably have been done for public education with this money?

How about serious upgrades for the various poorly funded and crumbling facilities that serve our most profoundly handicapped students?

How about green energy retrofits for some of our schools that are the most expensive to heat and cool?

How about new laboratory equipment for our high schools and middle schools (so they will know what the hell they're working with by the time they get to Wesley)?

How about fully funding (for a change) the State's completely inadequate alternative school programs?

Somehow, when I compare these kinds of projects to a new recreational trail (when our State and counties may have to shut down existing parks) or new museums (as we shut down existing ones) or more surveillance equipment (when we could be purchasing solar panels that will make a difference for decades into the future), I have to say...

The government continues to live down to my expectations.


Another Mike said...

The trail along the canal is a Mike Castle special. He has been promoting this project for years.

Nancy said...

Great job, Steve. Is anyone sending links for this post to the guv?

Anonymous said...

If only the money were spent on government schools and solar panels this massive devaluation of our currency wouldn't be a problem at all!

tom said...

I think this earmark from the WNJ's list is my favorite: $115,420 to city of Newark for downtown surveillance cameras.

If the Newark downtown area, a four block long section of Main Street, isn't already among the safest areas in the world with four separate police forces (Newark, UD, NCC, State) covering it, I'm at a loss to understand how cameras will help.

Then again, if Newark's past track record with purchases of this nature is any indication, they'll be vandalized or stolen within a week of installation.

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