3 states scolded for unspent stimulus funds

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Florida has done the worst at spending stimulus bill transportation money, with only 2 percent of its available highway construction money being used already, 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, with 64 percent; and Oklahoma, at 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, which is why South Carolina, which has allocated 3 percent, ranked ahead of Hawaii, which has no projects underway.

Florida was slated to receive $1.3 billion, the third most transportation money under the formula allocating grants in the $787 billion stimulus bill.

Spokesmen for Mr. Crist and Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle didn’t respond to requests for comment, but South Carolina transportation officials said Mr. Oberstar’s data was more than a month old, and that $172.7 million in contracts have been awarded since.

The state transportation department also said they have taken pains to make sure their projects comply with the stimulus bill’s goal of providing opportunities in communities hardest-hit by the economic downturn. The Obama administration has come under fire for not working to direct spending to distressed communities.

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