Freshmen Seek Money for Rural Communities

Posted January 13, 2009 at 1:35pm

Freshman Democrats on Tuesday urged Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to make sure rural communities get their piece of the pie in the forthcoming economic stimulus package.

In a letter to Pelosi, 20 incoming Democrats warn that the infrastructure of rural communities is “in crisis” and call for targeted investments in broadband technology, public transportation, and water and sewage systems. Investments are also sorely needed in local schools, police and hospitals, they said.

Rural areas are among “the hardest hit” by the economic slowdown and “comprise about 50 million Americans and approximately 75 percent of our nation’s land area. The needs of rural Americans must be directly addressed in this bill if we are to succeed in curbing the economic downturn and improving the lives of everyday Americans,” the letter states.

They cite the support of another Democratic leader — House Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.) — for their cause.

“Please join us in standing with Majority Whip Clyburn to advocate for rural interests and to ask that rural communities be included in the upcoming economic recovery plan,” the letter reads.

The letter is signed by Reps. Betsy Markey (Colo.), Harry Teague (N.M.), Eric Massa (N.Y.), Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Dan Maffei (N.Y.), Walt Minnick (Idaho), Tom Perriello (Va.), Kathy Dahlkemper (Pa.), Larry Kissell (N.C.), Debbie Halvorson (Ill.), Paul Tonko (N.Y.), Jared Polis (Colo.), Chellie Pingree (Maine), Mark Schauer (Mich.), Ann Kirkpatrick (Ariz.), Parker Griffith (Ala.), Ben Ray Luján (N.M.), Frank Kratovil (Md.), John Boccieri (Ohio) and Steve Driehaus (Ohio).

Earlier this week, Clyburn cited concerns among freshmen that they will be asked to sign onto a massive spending package with nothing to show for their districts. He called for using stimulus money to boost rural development and emphasized that dollars can be directed without including a single earmark, through a host of programs such as Community Development Block Grants, setting up empowerment zones and bolstering existing programs.