Harper meets with leaders, speaks against stimulus

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 19, 2009

NATCHEZ — Hoisting two giant binders, U.S. Representative Gregg Harper gave city and county leaders a look at the newly signed federal stimulus package.

Over grits and biscuits, local leaders met with Harper on Wednesday morning to hear updates on a myriad of topics facing the region.

But Harper’s biggest talking point at the breakfast meeting was the stimulus bill.

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Harper, who voted against the stimulus bill, called the bill’s passing an “amazing situation.”

“We still don’t know quite what’s in there,” Harper said of the document.

Harper said he is not aware of anyone in the house or senate that has read the bill, which is 1,073 pages.

Harper said one of his biggest issues with the bill is that it did not allocate enough funding for things like road improvements and included too many earmarks for unnecessary projects.

The bill contains plans for an $8 billion railway from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and $335 million for AIDS and STD prevention programs, Harper said.

Additionally, the bill ushers in more than 30 new government programs.

“It creates a lot of new layers of bureaucracy,” he said.

But several listening to Harper’s address have already made wish lists for stimulus money.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen has asked for approximately $54 million, and the Adams County Board of Supervisors has requested $66 million in funding from the bill.

Adams County Supervisor Thomas “Boo” Campbell said while he realizes the stimulus package is not perfect, it’s a start.

“We need to do something. Everyone can see there’s a problem,” he said of the economy.

And while Campbell said he understood some of Harper’s critiques on the bill, he noted Harper did not offer any solutions on correcting the economy.

Natchez Mayor Jake Middleton said he felt the bill had good and bad elements buried in its pages.

“It has the ability to do some good,” he said.

But Middleton acknowledged the bill likely had too many unnecessary projects.