U.S. President Barack Obama issued new guidelines Friday on how the state and federal governments can spend their share of the $787 billion economic recovery plan. The tough new rules are intended to ensure that the money is spent on worthy projects.
President Obama says the huge stimulus package will "require a new level of transparency" in how taxpayers' money is spent. "It is the most sweeping recovery plan in our nation's history. With a plan of such size comes an obligation to be vigilant with every dime that we spend," he said.
Mr. Obama told lawmakers from the 50 states, meeting at the White House, the initiatives that will get priority must show they can create jobs or provide other "enduring benefits."
The president also said he wants to reduce the influence of lobbyists. "Decisions about how Recovery Act dollars are spent will be based on the merits. Let me repeat that: Decisions about how recovery money will be spent will be based on the merits. They will not be made as a way of doing favors for lobbyists," he said.
Mr. Obama said any lobbyist who talks with a member of his administration about a stimulus project will have the proposal posted on the Internet.
He said the recovery plan "cannot and will not be an excuse for waste and abuse."
North Carolina state House Speaker Joe Hackney, who met with the president, said state governments are doing their best to spend the money efficiently. "We will cooperate fully, in terms of the transparency and accountability that is being asked of us. I am told that 46 states already have their own websites up, to let anyone in America know where the money has been spent," he said.
Mr. Obama told the lawmakers he is trying to lead by example, so he rejected a request to update electrical and heating systems in the family's residence in the White House, because it would not create many jobs. But he said he hopes Congress will pay for the project in the future.
The president also discussed spending priorities with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and governors Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania. They talked about creating jobs through rebuilding transportation infrastructure.