Political Notebook

Cabinet hits road to tout stimulus

Associated Press / April 2, 2009
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With President Obama across the pond trying to unify the worldwide response to the economic crisis, his Cabinet hit the road yesterday to trumpet the benefits of the stimulus package he championed back home.

Vice President Joe Biden and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack traveled to North Carolina to highlight what the Recovery Act is doing to help rural America. They visited the Goshen Medical Center, a rural health clinic in Faison, which is getting $635,876 in stimulus money, enough to add seven jobs and treat 4,800 more patients, including 1,500 with no health insurance, the White House said.

"Community health centers are at the heart of many of our rural communities," Biden said. "Sometimes, these clinics are the only health facilities for miles and miles."

In Pikeville, N.C., Biden and Vilsack stopped by the rural fire department's main station, which is using stimulus cash to build a firehouse big enough for ladder trucks. They also announced that the Agriculture Department has begun disbursing the first installment of $10 billion in guaranteed housing loans.

About $1.76 billion, including $37.2 million for Massachusetts, will help 15,000 rural families and create or save about 7,500 jobs, the White House said.

Also starting this week, most employees will see a $10 bump in their paychecks as the $400-per-worker, $800-per-couple tax credit kicks in from the stimulus package. Individuals making up to $75,000 a year, and couples making less than $150,000, are eligible for the full credit, which phases out at a $95,000 income for individuals and $190,000 for couples. The credit expires after 2010, but Obama has proposed making it permanent.

Senators John F. Kerry and Edward M. Kennedy said that the tax credit means $1.2 billion for 2.4 million working families in Massachusetts.

Key Republican brushes Sebelius tax trouble aside
WASHINGTON - A $7,000 tax mistake shouldn't disqualify Kathleen Sebelius from serving as the nation's top health official, a key Republican senator said yesterday.

Sebelius made "a good-faith effort" to pay her taxes correctly in the first place, and errors discovered in a recent review should not count against her, said Senator Charles Grassley, the senior Republican on the Finance Committee, which will hold a hearing today on President Obama's nomination of the Kansas governor as secretary of health and human services nominee.

He suggested he is more concerned with Sebelius's views on Medicare and Medicaid, and how her support for abortion rights might influence her policies.

Sebelius is expected to play a central role in trying to steer legislation through Congress this year that would overhaul the healthcare system to rein in costs and cover the uninsured.

In a letter to senators Tuesday, Sebelius said she filed three years of amended tax returns and paid more than $7,000 in back taxes.