This week, more than 200 civic and business leaders are making the case on Capitol Hill that federal dollars sent to California will boost an economic revival nationwide. KPCC's Washington Correspondent Kitty Felde caught up with the lobbying group.
[Sound of people talking]
Kitty Felde: This is the sound of lobbying Congress. Dozens of people huddle in small groups in the hallways outside the congressional offices. Their nametags identify Chambers of Commerce, law firms, energy companies, and transit agencies, many from Southern California. The crowd includes city council members and mayors... like L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: Many of the cities or states across the country are coming with their hand out. We're a little different. We're actually coming with money.
Felde: Villaraigosa says L.A. voters approved bonds and sales tax hikes to pay for transportation and school projects – projects that need matching federal dollars. Los Angeles stepped up. Now the mayor says Congress should, too.
Local officials and business leaders have made this annual spring trek to Washington for more than two decades. With billions in federal stimulus money in the balance, this is the largest delegation yet.
Greeting them was Democratic Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard of East Los Angeles. She sits on the House Appropriations Committee, and she says the "ABC" principle still rules on Capitol Hill: Send federal money Anywhere But California. Roybal-Allard welcomes the ammunition presented by these local officials.
Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard: They are the ones that deal with the policies and the issues that we create here in Washington on a day to day basis. So to have that understanding directly from those people who have to deal with the policies, and then to be able to explain and translate that to our colleagues, is also very important. Because now we're not just talking from what we think, but from actual impact.
Felde: Republican Congressman David Dreier of San Dimas – like every other Republican House member – voted against the federal stimulus package, but not because he was against sending federal money back home. He wanted more of it for building or repairing highways, bridges, and dams. But whatever money there is, Drier says he's trying to make the case to his colleagues in Congress that sending a lot of it to California is good for the rest of the country.
Congressman David Dreier: Forty-three percent of everything that is consumed, that is imported, comes through the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. Forty-three percent of everything that's exported to other parts of the world from the United States goes through those two ports. So people across the country benefit from things that they send out of the country through the Ports of Long Beach and L.A., and their consumers benefit from everything that comes in through those two ports.
Felde: Now all Drier has to do is sell that message to the 382 House members who aren't from California. It's not like the state will come away with nothing. A new study by the non-partisan California Budget Project estimates the federal economic recovery package will send more than $50 billion California's way.