At today's Thinking Big conference, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell spoke briefly about federal priorities for energy and infrastructure programs before leaving to accompany Vice President Joe Biden to an event in Pennsylvania in support of the stimulus legislation. Rendell laid out a bold agenda for a ten year, 2.2 trillion dollar infrastructure program and the formation of a federal capital fund, noting that every other American political subdivision conmonly has such a mechanism and referencing a poll [PDF] commissioned by Building America's Future, an organization he co-chairs, indicating massive public support for such an initiative. Rendell also noted the variety of shovel-ready infrastructure projects in Pennsylvania, including bridges in need of repair to road resurfacing projects.

The governor outlined an energy agenda that included making permanent the renewable energy tax break, federal purchasing targeted at clean energy programs, new regulations to enforce renewable energy standards, and an effort to redirect petroleum subsidies toward investment in new energy technology.

After his speech, Rendell talked to reporters outside the venue, noting his support for his state's Republican Senator Arlen Specter -- "a real hero ... [who] put his country first" -- after Specter was a critical GOP vote to pass the stimulus from the Senate yesterday, despite threats of a conservative primary challenge like the one that nearly derailed his career in 2004. Though Rendell prefers the House version of the bill and will lobby Specter to support whatever comes out of conference because he may have to adjust his budget proposals without the flexible state aid cut from the senate compromise. Nonetheless, he emphasized putting the good ahead of the perfect and passing a compromise bill as soon as possible. Asked what the president could have done to sell the bill more effectively, Rendell observed that the time pressure to pass stimulus legislation made it difficult for the president to effectively marshall public support for his proposal.

-- Tim Fernholz

Related reading: The Thinking Big manifesto

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