Ballmer Asks Congress to Pass Stimulus

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer urged Congress in a letter to quickly pass the stimulus bill "to begin to put our country back on the path toward long-term economic growth."

Ballmer sent the letter to all members of Congress, expressing his hope that the bill will help create and save jobs, improve education, encourage research and development, and extend broadband coverage.

"We are experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime economic crisis," he wrote. But the crisis offers an opportunity to get the economy going and rebuild investor and consumer confidence, he said.

Education and training will be key to making sure people have the right skills as technology advances, Ballmer said. "This final package includes significant investments in human capital -- in the citizens of our country. America is second-to-none in turning ideas into innovations," he wrote.

That confidence in the American workforce comes even as Microsoft is under fire for continuing to push the government to loosen restrictions on foreign workers. Microsoft filed a proposal for reform of the foreign skilled-worker visa program with Barack Obama's transition team days before the company announced layoffs of 5,000 people. Some critics wonder why Microsoft needs more foreign workers as it is laying off thousands.

In addition to support for education, the government needs to make a long-term commitment to research and development and encourage the private sector to do the same, Ballmer wrote.

He also expressed support for items in the bill that will help extend the reach of broadband and use technology to transform health care. "We believe information technology can help create a connected health system that delivers predictive, preventive, and personalized care -- a system that will improve the health of Americans and help control health care spending," he wrote.

Ballmer sent the letter on Wednesday.

The U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives have each passed slightly different versions of the stimulus bill. They are now working on hammering out the differences, which include different-size investments in health IT, a smart electricity grid and broadband projects in rural areas.

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