July 10, 2009 -- Thanks to stimulus funding, there are signs of progress across the country -- literally.
Signs with the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act logo are plastered at stimulus-funded construction project sites around America. The costs of these signs -- some of them reaching into the thousands of dollars -- are drawing sharp criticism from one member of Congress.
"The folks who support the stimulus package, basically this administration, want to get out there and blow their own horn with taxpayers' money," said Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H. "I mean, they have a lot of campaign money. Why don't they use the campaign money?"
The signs cost $500 apiece in Maryland and New Hampshire, $1,700 in Georgia, $2,000 in Pennsylvania and New York, and $3,000 per project in New Jersey. For the price of one $2,000 sign, 40 potholes could be repaired.
The costs of the signs are adding up for some states. New York alone is spending about $1 million on signs, and in most states, the signs are made before projects are started. While New Jersey has used only 3 percent of its designated $650,000,000 in stimulus money for road construction, 5 percent of what it's spent has gone to signs -- at a cost of $12,000, or 240 potholes.
New Jersey has awarded more than $270 million in stimulus projects, but so far has spent only $225,000.
However, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the signs are worth every penny.
"Signs tell a story, and the story being told is hard-earned taxpayer dollars are being spent to rebuild roads, resurface roads, resurface bridges," said LaHood.
Yet, not every state on the road to stimulus-funded recovery is boasting the signs. Texas, Florida and Virginia have forgone the stimulus-touting signs and put the money into construction projects instead.
Ultimately, proponents say, the signs will represent a tiny fraction of the money spent on construction -- money well worth the millions of construction jobs the projects are supposed to create.
For now, though, some say the signs seem a lot easier to create than the jobs.