The U.S. House Committee on Appropriations Jan. 15 revealed the first details of a massive $825 billion economic stimulus plan that would include $6 billion in grants for broadband and wireless services in rural and underserved areas. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 also spends liberally on a wide range of proposals the technology sector has urged President-elect Barack Obama to adopt.
Under the House bill, which Appropriations Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., predicted could be passed by the House in two weeks, would spend $20 billion for efforts to computerize health records to cut costs and reduce medical errors; $11 billion for research and development, pilot projects, and federal matching funds for the Smart Grid Investment Program to modernize the electricity grid; and $3 billion for expanding employment opportunities in fundamental science and engineering to meet environmental challenges and to improve global economic competitiveness.
In addition, the bill contains several tax provisions that will allow America's technology companies to continue investing in innovation, including a five-year carryback of net operating losses; an extension of increased small-business expensing; a one-year deferral of withholding tax on government contractors; bonus depreciation; and a long-term extension of a renewable energy production tax credit.
The bill also includes $650 million for more digital converter box coupons as part of the digital television transition program. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced Jan. 5 that funding for the $1.34 billion digital converter box coupon program has been temporarily exhausted, prompting Obama Jan. 8 to call for more money and a delay in the Feb. 17 transition date.
"This package is the first crucial step in a concerted effort to create and save 3 to 4 million jobs, jump-start our economy, and begin the process of transforming it for the 21st century with $275 billion in economic recovery tax cuts and $550 billion in thoughtful and carefully targeted priority investments with unprecedented accountability measures built in," the committee said in a statement.