A prominent Capitol Hill Democrat accused Virginia of putting the brakes on when it comes to spending the state’s share of stimulus money for transportation.
The criticism is aimed at Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine but is also driving debate in the Virginia governor's race.
Rep. James Oberstar chairs the House Transportation Committee, which monitors transportation stimulus money spending. In a letter to Kaine, the Minnesota Democrat said Virginia needs to speed up the pace of funding road projects and getting people to work. Turns out the commonwealth is dead last among all states in using its transportation stimulus bucks. By the end of August, only 17 percent of the money had been committed to a project, according to Oberstar’s letter. Kaine says Oberstar's progress report is dated and that Virginia has actually funded many more projects.
Still, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell is using the letter to formulate a new attack against Democratic opponent Creigh Deeds, who has promised to follow Kaine's lead in governing. McDonnell said a Gov. Deeds would mean inaction on transportation.
At a campaign stop in Arlington, Va., on Monday, Deeds defended Kaine's approach. He said the governor is doing the best he can to get the money out.
"It points out the weakness in our transportation system. We did not have the ongoing projects that we could just pour the money into,” said Deeds. “We had to analyze our entire system and our entire project list to see where we could put the money to work as quickly as possible."
Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) said the letter hurts Deeds.
"It’s not good for him because if he says he wants to be like the existing group, the existing group hasn't done very good," he said
"We've got 93 percent of the projects actually allocated now, and those dollars are getting out, and people are being hired, and road work is taking place," said Warner. "I think, in the long term, that is going to be better for the commonwealth."
Published at 8:25 PM EDT on Oct 5, 2009 | Updated at 8:45 PM EDT on Oct 5, 2009