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State examining stimulus impact with an eye on jobs

State agencies are submitting their reports to the Governor’s Office of Economic Recovery for the first comprehensive look at how Arizona has been impacted by the federal stimulus act.

The Office of Economic Recovery, which oversees the state’s use of money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, will collect the data through Oct. 6 and plans to submit a report to federal officials two days later. Each state is required to submit a report under the guidelines of the stimulus act.

Office of Economic Recovery spokeswoman Tasya Peterson said the state’s report will be more comprehensive and detailed than a recent report by the U.S. Governmental Accountability Office. The data will be publicly available after Nov. 1. According to the office, Arizona is slated to receive a total of about $6.3 billion from the stimulus act, which includes money received through competitive grants.

Arizona is only required to track stimulus money distributed directly to state government entities, but when the Office of Economic Recovery posts the information on its Web site, it is hoping to include data about stimulus money distributed to local government entities such as the cities of Phoenix and Tucson, Peterson said.

Peterson said the office is seeking that information from federal officials “so we can get a comprehensive look as far as what’s going on with the recovery act in all of Arizona, not just through the state agencies. So we are attempting to do that as well, but we have not yet heard if that’s going to be possible. But that’s our goal.”

There are some hiccups in identifying the full impact of the money, however. One facet of the stimulus act that the reports will seek to measure is the number of jobs created or saved by the infusion of federal cash. But under stringent federal guidelines, a job cannot be considered saved unless it was specifically designated to be cut before the state received its stimulus money, Peterson said.

For example, Gov. Jan Brewer recently authorized $50 million in stimulus money for the Arizona Department of Corrections that will be used to pay 1,305 corrections workers’ salaries for the first five pay periods of the fiscal year. But because those jobs were not on the chopping block, Peterson said, they could not be counted as saved, though many are predicting that the state will have to lay off employees in order to close a $1 billion deficit in the fiscal 2010 budget.

“It’s hard to say” what might have been cut in the future, Peterson said. “Maybe some states are in a position where they knew what their situation was (before the stimulus act) and they knew they were going to have to cut some jobs. But this is not the case in this instance.”

Much of Arizona’s stimulus money is yet to be used, but on Sept. 30, the Governor’s Office authorized $317 million to K-12 schools from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. The stabilization fund is an $832 million pool designated for public education.

In late September, Brewer approved nearly $9 million in stabilization fund money for some community colleges, including Pima Community College, and an additional $19.7 million is scheduled to go to other community college systems, including Maricopa Community College, as soon as their governing boards approve receipt of the funds.

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