Mr. President: Don't bully Arizona - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Mr. President: Don't bully Arizona

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Posted: Wednesday, July 15, 2009 9:39 am | Updated: 3:00 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Glenn Hamer: It is one thing to joust with Sen. Jon Kyl over his position, but it is an entirely different matter for cabinet secretaries to write letters to the chief executive of a state and threaten funding if support isn't provided. Once a law is passed, it needs to be fairly and impartially administered.

President Barack Obama should immediately rebuke the members of his cabinet who are threatening  Arizona over stimulus money as a result of Sen. Jon Kyl's declaration that stimulus spending should be halted and redirected to more worthwhile purposes such as health care.

Stories published earlier this week revealed cabinet members, including U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, have sent letters to Gov. Jan Brewer questioning whether she agreed with Kyl's statement on the stimulus funding. Apparently, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has also sent a letter, and a letter from U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack can be viewed here.

LaHood's words are unbecoming of a high-ranking U.S. official. "I believe the stimulus has been very effective in creating job opportunities throughout the country," wrote LaHood. "However, if you prefer to forfeit the money we are making available to the state, as Senator Kyl suggests, please let me know."

Reasonable people can disagree over the effectiveness of the stimulus and whether and in what form it should continue. Sen. John McCain, for example, also voted against the $787 billion stimulus bill and recently criticized the administration for not delivering on its calculations that unemployment would remain level or decrease from 8.5 percent. Regardless of how one feels about the stimulus funding, it is wrong for officials to play politics with the allocation of dollars for federal spending programs that Arizona citizens ultimately pay though our federal taxes (or perhaps more accurately, future taxes).

It is one thing to joust with Kyl over his position, but it is an entirely different matter for cabinet secretaries to write letters to the chief executive of a state and threaten funding if support isn't provided. Once a law is passed, it needs to be fairly and impartially administered.

While some of the stimulus dollars have been welcomed by state leaders, particularly those funds that provide assistance to Arizona in closing its budget deficit, there is clearly spending in the stimulus bill of a far less useful variety. Some projects eligible for funding under the stimulus have been rejected by local Arizona leaders. For example, the Scottsdale City Council under the leadership of its new mayor, Jim Lane, rejected stimulus funds in part because it was concerned that new projects under stimulus rules would increase the city's overhead in future budgets.

Our nation's budget deficit just zoomed past $1 trillion for this fiscal year and continues to grow. A serious evaluation of how the unspent stimulus dollars should be spent or whether all of the dollars should be spent at all is in order. This is a legitimate debate that must occur without threat or intimidation to states represented by members of Congress who have reasonable concerns over the effectiveness and future course of the funds appropriated in the stimulus package.

--

Glenn Hamer is president & CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

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