Tuesday, July 14, 2009

White House turns up heat on Arizona senator

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama administration is firing back at Sen. Jon Kyl for calling for an end to economic stimulus spending, and they're aiming for where it hurts the most - at home in Arizona.

The White House on Tuesday released letters from four cabinet secretaries to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, citing Kyl's comments and outlining transportation, housing, Indian education and other projects in his home state they said would be eliminated if the senator has his way.

Kyl, the No. 2 Senate GOP leader, has said the stimulus spending hasn't succeeded in boosting the economy and that it's adding to the deficit. He's suggested on his Senate Web site and in interviews that spending not already allocated be halted.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, one of two Republicans in Obama's cabinet, made no attempt to conceal his needling.

Kyl "publicly questioned whether the stimulus is working and stated that he wants to cancel projects that aren't presently under way," LaHood wrote Brewer. "If you prefer to forfeit the money we are making available to your state, as Senator Kyl suggests, please let me know."

LaHood noted in the letter that at least $520.9 million of the $48 billion for transportation projects under the economic recovery act are intended for Arizona projects, including transit projects in Phoenix.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Arizona would lose $45 million for 500 single-family housing loans if projects not already under way were canceled. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said the state would forfeit $73 million his department oversees, including $22 million for homeless programs.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, a Westerner who formerly served with Kyl in the Senate, didn't mention the Arizonan by name in his letter, but referred to "some key Republican leaders in Congress." He said the state would lose $60 million for Bureau of Indian Education schools, among other money.

Brewer spokesman Paul Senseman said the governor wants Arizona taxpayers to "receive their fair share" of any stimulus dollars.

"We certainly hope that they're somehow not threatening Arizona's portion of federal funding based on their disagreement with Senator Kyl," Senseman said.

Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon, a Democrat, said he called Brewer's office requesting that the governor continue to accept stimulus money. He also sent letters to cabinet officials volunteering Phoenix to act as a fiduciary for all Arizona stimulus funds if Brewer were to turn them down.

"The Senator is 2,000 miles away," Gordon said at a news conference Tuesday. "We're here trying to build roads and put people to work."

Kyl didn't immediately reply to a request for comment from The Associated Press.........

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