U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Kay Hagan disagree on much of the economic stimulus package they will vote on next week.
Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat, says there isn't enough money in the bill for transportation and other infrastructure. Burr, a Winston-Salem Republican, wants to tackle the housing crisis with a refinancing plan to help homeowners who are employed.
Democrats expect to have overwhelming support for the bill, although Hagan won't say how she might vote until she finishes reviewing the details. Burr, however, said he won't support the bill as it stands. Other Senate Republicans also have criticized it.
As they dig through details in the 600-page bill, Hagan and Burr are hearing from constituents.
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Burr said that of the hundreds of calls to his office, most are from people who say the bill costs too much money. Hagan, meanwhile, has heard from officials ranging from city aldermen to sheriffs, each pushing for his or her needs.
“All happen to be coming to Washington and saying how important it is that something in the stimulus package gets done for X, Y and Z,” Hagan said.
Burr has joined other Republicans to champion a proposal he says could begin to ease the housing crisis. He wants to allow working homeowners to refinance to a 4 percent, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage through the quasi-government agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Burr said the reductions in interest rates could:
Reduce mortgage payments, generating money that could be plugged back into the economy.
Start to stabilize foreclosure rates.
Retire the troubled mortgages that serve as toxic assets on banks' books.
He acknowledged that homeowners who have lost their jobs could still face foreclosure.
Hagan said she'd rather focus federal dollars on those facing foreclosure. Other homeowners, she said, likely would refinance their homes anyway if the rates keep falling.
Hagan said she likes the spending in the bill for transportation and infrastructure, for college tuition credits and for green energy jobs.
There are some projects, such as $75 million for a smoking cessation project, that don't belong in the bill, Hagan said. But the transportation money – an estimated $1 billion for North Carolina – isn't enough, Hagan said.
“North Carolina is well-positioned,” Hagan said. “We've definitely got enough in the hopper that we could use significant amounts of money, but obviously we're not the only state saying that.”
She also wants to see more spending on water and sewer lines, broadband expansion and expanded use of buses in rural areas.