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HELENA - The Schweitzer administration has put together a list of $3.1 billion potential state and local projects ready to break ground within six months once Congress approves incoming President Barack Obama's federal economic-stimulus bill.

It amounts to a wish-list at this point, because details of Obama's package have not been released.

These projects could potentially create more than 100,000 jobs, the administration said.

"We're ready to go," said Bruce Nelson, chief of staff to Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

However, Nelson made it clear that state officials do not know at this time how large the Obama stimulus package will ultimately be, or how much will be allocated to each state.

"There are more questions than answers at this point," Nelson said.

Obama is talking about a $775 billion stimulus package, which would include as much as $300 billion in tax cuts and another $350 billion in infrastructure projects.

All potential projects could be started within six months, if the state gets the money.

Starting in late October, Nelson said the Schweitzer administration began asking department directors to put together lists of potential projects that are ready to go if the next president would propose a major stimulus package.

"We asked directors to make sure they were being comprehensive and there wasn't anything that we couldn't legitimately get into the field within 180 days," Nelson said.

The lion's share of the money, about $1.6 billion, would go to the state Transportation Department.

"What it will really mean for the people of Montana is a lot of projects (for which) they've been waiting a long period of time, will get done a lot sooner," Transportation Director Jim Lynch said.

Some of the proposed projects have been on the agency's waiting list. Some include pavement preservation jobs, construction of passing lanes, safety improvements and traffic lights.

"We don't know what all the rules are," Lynch said. "We just want to make sure they know we're ready."

The stimulus package, if approved, would free up money for projects behind those on the list, thereby greatly increasing highway work.

Transportation officials estimate that $1.6 billion in highway projects would create 66,795 jobs in Montana. Asked if there were that many construction workers available, Lynch said he is confident the construction industry is ready.

"We need an economic stimulus because we have a lot of people out of work," Lynch said.

Commerce Director Tony Priete said the agency has identified a number of projects to benefit Montana and local governments, including housing projects for low- and moderate-income people. Others would go for local public works, including wastewater projects and local rural road and bridge projects.

Labor Commissioner Keith Kelly said his agency also put in for $12.6 million to extend unemployment benefits for 8,300 laid off workers.

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