- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 6, 2009

Florida has done the worst at spending stimulus bill transportation money, with only 2 percent of its available highway money being used already on construction projects, according to a congressional study.

Hawaii and South Carolina were second- and third- worst in getting money out the door.

In a scolding letter, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee told Florida Gov. Charlie Crist to step it up.

“I strongly urge you to refocus your efforts to implement the Recovery Act and use the available funds to create and sustain family-wage jobs,” wrote Rep. James L. Oberstar, Minnesota Democrat. He sent similar letters to the governors of Hawaii and South Carolina on Thursday.

Mr. Oberstar sent congratulatory letters to the three top-performing states: Wyoming, which has allocated more than three-quarters of its transportation money, New Hampshire, 64 percent, and Oklahoma, 53 percent.

All three low-performing states have Republican governors while the three top-performing states have Democratic governors.

The rankings looked at all 50 states and the District of Columbia, but Mr. Oberstar released only the top and bottom three jurisdictions, saying the full list wouldn’t be released until September. His committee used a weighted system to evaluate projects put out to bid, projects under contract and projects underway, so South Carolina, which has allocated 3 percent, ranked ahead of Hawaii, which has allocated 0 percent.

A spokesman for Mr. Crist was checking to see if they had received the letter, and did not have an immediate comment. Florida was slated to receive $1.3 billion, or the third most transportation money under the formula allocation grants in the $787 billion stimulus bill.

Mr. Crist, who is running for the Senate seat of retiring Sen. Mel Martinez, Florida Republican, wasn’t always a target for Democrats over the stimulus bill.

In February, he was one of President Obama’s most vocal supporters as the White House tried to win passage of the spending plan. Mr. Crist even got a call from Mr. Obama in February thanking the governor for his efforts.

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, meanwhile, was among the most vehement opponents, even going so far as to try to turn down funding.

A Sanford spokesman said the South Carolina Transportation Department sets spending priorities, and referred calls to them. A message left with Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle’s office was not immediately returned.