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The Arizona Public Interest Research Group (Arizona PIRG) lauds today's passage of H.R. 1, the American Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act by the U.S. House of Representatives. According to Gary Kalman, the director of Arizona PIRG's Federal Legislative Office, "This legislation will spark immediate economic growth and lay the foundation for continued prosperity in a quickly changing global economy."
On transportation, H.R. 1 includes $12 billion in much-needed funding to modernize and expand public transportation networks across the country. The package was significantly strengthened by a floor amendment that added an additional $3 billion in capital funds for transit projects in communities across the country both large and small. The added investment will create or preserve an additional 133,000 jobs. The total transit and rail package will put hundreds of thousands to work while reducing our nation's dependence on oil, traffic congestion, and global warming pollution.
"This transportation investment is an important first step, and it sends a strong message that this Congress will move us toward a modernized, 21st century transportation system," said Alex Nelson, Arizona PIRG's transportation associate.
On higher education, the economic recovery package contains what Arizona PIRG's Higher Education Associate Rich Williams calls "much needed relief to students and families struggling to pay for college." The legislation combines a $15.6 billion increase to the Pell grant program with the largest ever increase to the work study program. Also included is a tax credit that will cover tuition and fee costs as well as textbook costs. Williams pointed out, "Facing a shrinking job pool and shrinking assets, students and families need all the help they can get right now, and for the next several years, to pay for college. In the long run, providing an affordable college education is the single biggest thing the country can do to ensure that our economy becomes stronger and grows."
On health care, H.R. 1 takes the critical first steps toward long-anticipated comprehensive health care reform. This bill includes significant new investments in prevention, electronic medical record systems, and comparative effectiveness research. "The recovery plan's health care funding will create new high-tech jobs immediately, begin the process of controlling health costs and put us on the path to long-term economic sustainability," stated Arizona PIRG's federal Health Care Advocate Larry McNeely.
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