DENVER (AP) — State officials say federal stimulus spending saved or created the equivalent of about 7,200 full-time jobs in Colorado the final three months of last year.
State officials said Friday that roughly 70 percent of the jobs were positions retained in higher education and state prisons.
“The impact on the state is enormous,” said Don Elliman, chairman of the Colorado Economic Recovery and Accountability Board.
A new state report says that highway and transit projects created the equivalent of about 610 full-time positions. Science and research accounted for 281 jobs and home weatherization created 175 positions.
Elliman said he expects the effects of stimulus spending to accelerate this spring. State agencies have spent only about 40 percent of the $1.6 billion they will eventually get in federal stimulus grants, he said.
“The job impacts should peak this summer as construction ramps up,” Elliman said.
Harold Metz is among the Coloradans helped by the stimulus funds. He said during the news conference with Elliman that he got a job as a supervisor on weatherization projects in the Colorado Springs area after being losing his construction job at age 65.
“I was a senior out of work looking for a job,” Metz said.
But state Rep. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, said the federal money is just a temporary way to preserve government jobs and avoid hard choices rather than a way to jump-start the economy.
“You can bring in billions of dollars of federal money for government jobs and prop them up, while the rest of the economy and employment is going down,” said Lambert, a member of the Legislature’s budget committee. “It’s not sustainable.”
Plunging revenue forced Gov. Bill Ritter and lawmakers to cut $2 billion from this year’s state budget. They’ll also have to cut another $1 billion from the budget that begins July 1.