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Schwarzenegger meets with President-elect

December 2, 2008 6:33:39 PM PST
Governor Schwarzenegger had his first face-to-face meeting with President-elect Obama Tuesday.

The two men shook hands Tuesday afternoon in Philadelphia where the nation's governors were urging the new administration to jump start the economy by investing in infrastructure projects.

41 of the nation's governors met with President-elect Obama in Philadelphia. California's governor took the lead in pressing the federal government to invest in infrastructure projects as a way to stimulate state economies.

"America has not done anything when it comes to real infrastructure building in the last four decades. I think it's time to get our act together and do it," said Schwarzenegger.

President-elect Obama assured the governors he is listening to their ideas and will move quickly on a comprehensive economic recovery plan.

"As president, I'm not simply asking the nation's governors to help implement our economic plan. I'm going to be interested in you helping to draft and shape that economic plan," Obama said.

The National Governor's Association says there are $136 billion worth of so called "ready to go" infrastructure projects in the United States.

Of that California has $28 billion for ready-to-go projects and California voters just approved another $10 billion for high-speed rail.

Rod Diradon is Executive Director of the Mineta Transportation Institute. He says several light rail projects are also in queue and breaking ground is a win-win.

"Those projects not only give you jobs but they also create mobility that will last for the next hundred years and they're environmentally appropriate," he said.

The recession and credit crunch have put the squeeze on private building projects, increasing the need for public spending.

The governor's office says for every $1 billion in infrastructure investment 18,000 to 47,000 jobs are created, much needed jobs in the construction industry.

"It's hard to estimate, we're probably about 15 percent unemployment in our industry locally and that's going up, it's going to get worse. So rather than giving somebody unemployment benefits, they'd much prefer to have a job," said Neil Struthers with the Building & Construction Trades Council.

There is concern big infrastructure projects can't be started quickly enough. But, as the governors emphasized Tuesday many of these projects could be launched within 120 days of the new administration taking office.

"This is a good opportunity not only because it will build infrastructure but also it creates great jobs and gets the economy stimulated," said Struthers.

The Governor is now back in California. But, while in Philadelphia he made a point of saying he will not be asking the federal governoemtn for any money until state lawmakers make some progress in closing California's $11 billion budget gap.


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