Obama releases guidance on acceptable stimulus spending

President Obama on Friday issued a directive to federal agencies outlining appropriate spending under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The guidance is aimed at ensuring spending decisions are predicated on how programs will benefit the economy.

"Decisions about how Recovery Act dollars are spent will be based on the merits," Obama told the National Conference of State Legislatures. Initiatives that maximize job creation, make health care affordable, rebuild crumbling roads and bridges, or provide other "enduring benefits" to taxpayers must take priority, he said.

"Whenever a project comes up for review, we're going to ask a simple question," the president said. "Does it advance the core mission of the Recovery Act? Does it jump-start job creation? Does it lay the foundation for lasting prosperity?"

Obama also continued to stress transparency in communications between members of his administration and lobbyists, particularly on stimulus programs. Under the new guidance, lobbyists who want to talk with an administration member about a Recovery Act project must submit their requests in writing, and that correspondence will be posted online. The topics of meetings between administration officials and lobbyists on stimulus efforts also will be published.

"There is the letter of the law, and then there is the spirit of the law," Vice President Joe Biden told conference participants. "We intend to make sure the spirit of the law is what's actually followed here, in addition to the letter."

Biden, who is overseeing Recovery Act efforts, sent a letter Thursday to the U.S. Conference of Mayors asking for help spreading the word about appropriate stimulus spending. The vice president warned that while certain projects, such as casinos, golf courses and swimming pools, are statutorily excluded from receiving funds, others will be considered unacceptable as well.

"The increasingly tough times we face -- and specific provisions of the Recovery Act -- suggest that some types of projects, though not explicitly prohibited, are inconsistent with the purpose of the act, and should not be funded," Biden wrote. "At this critical moment, we simply cannot afford to fund projects that do not meet absolutely critical needs."

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