What’s in the compromise plan?

WHAT’S IN THE COMPROMISE PLAN?…. OK, so Congress and the White House struck a deal on a $789 billion economic stimulus plan. What’s in it?

Some of the key details are still elusive, but the Washington Post notes that the package has four broad categories: “tax breaks for individuals and businesses; investments in health care and alternative energy; funding for ‘shovel-ready’ infrastructure projects; and aid to state and local governments, including expanded benefits for individuals who are unemployed and lack health insurance.”

Of the $789 billion, $507 billion will go to spending programs, while $282 billion goes to tax cuts — a 64%-36% split. The Collins/Snowe/Specter team successfully pared the legislation back — the bill is still too small — but the New York Times nevertheless noted that the recovery package “will be the most expansive unleashing of the government’s fiscal firepower in the face of a recession since World War II.”

Although the final legislative language was not immediately available, lawmakers said the bill contained more than $150 billion in public works projects for transportation, energy and technology, and $87 billion to help states meet rising Medicaid costs.

Despite intense lobbying by governors around the country, the final deal slashed $25 billion from a proposed state fiscal stabilization fund, eliminated a $16 billion line item for school construction and sharply curtailed spending to provide health insurance for the unemployed.

In driving down the total cost — from $838 billion for the Senate stimulus bill and $820 billion for the House-passed measure — lawmakers also reduced the Senate’s proposed tax incentives for buyers of homes and cars, which hold big public appeal.

The final agreement retained a $70 billion tax break to spare millions of middle-income Americans from paying the alternative minimum tax in 2009. Some Democrats decried the provision as a costly addition that would not lift the economy and that Congress would have approved, regardless of the recession.

On the AMT, those Democrats are right.

In the big picture, however, the Post noted that the final version of the bill, after “tumultuous negotiations,” looks a whole lot like “the broad outline that Obama had painted more than a month ago.”

It’s a good point. While there’s some debate about whether the Obama White House scored a big win with this package or not, the administration, a month ago, envisioned a $775 billion plan, with $300 billion in tax cuts. The finished product looks pretty similar.

The package should be more aggressive and more ambitious, but “as a legislative achievement, coming so early in the term, this is astonishing.”