Kaine Responds to Transportation Criticism
Gov. Tim Kaine said today that he was "completely surprised' that the Democratic chairman of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee sent him a blunt letter accusing him of being slow in spending the state's share of federal stimulus money for transportation.
"Look, do you want to spend it fast or do you want to spend it best?" Kaine said in an interview. "We're going to spend it best."
U.S. Rep. James Oberstar wrote in a letter yesterday that Virginia had started construction on only about 17 percent of millions of dollars worth of transportation projects -- making the state last in the nation to spend its money.
Kaine blamed the ranking on the White House and Congress using two different ways to report spending. Virginia, he said, is following the administration's guideline.
"This House committee is doing their own analysis and they do it differently,'' Kaine said. "It might frankly be a disagreement of opinion -- this is not completely unusual -- between the administration and Congress. We feel like by following the adminstration's deadline and reporting requirements, we're fine."
What does Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, say to Republicans who are using this issue to accuse him of not paying attention to the state?
"They do that,'' he said. "I don't worry about it."
Kaine said Virginia won a national award -- infrastructure state of the year -- just 10 days ago in New York. He said state officials worked as quickly as they could to devise a list of transportation projects that could use stimulus dollars after receiving public input but that it took longer than other states because Virginia is using the money for new projects.
"Other states put their money into existing projects,'' he said. "We decided look if we're going to get money let's do something that would add some new value. When you do new projects, instead of existing projects, it takes a little longer."
Kaine spent part of the day campaigning with Democratic gubernatorial nominee Creigh Deeds in Richmond and Norfolk and attened a rally with House candidate Robin Abbott, the Democratic challenger to Del. Phil Hamilton of Newport News.
Yesterday, Hamilton called on Abbott to ask Kaine why Virginia ranks last on the stimulus list and challenge him to fix the problem. "It is especially frustrating that Virginia continues to fall further behind due to ineffective and inept management,'' Hamilton said. "Why is it that transportation is so often used as a political issue by the administration, but never treated as a core function of government?"
October 3, 2009; 6:08 PM ET
Categories: 2009 Governor's Race , Anita Kumar , Creigh Deeds , Timothy M. Kaine
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