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The Obama administration will make nearly half a billion dollars in unspent highway funds available to states that promise to use the money to create jobs and improve transportation.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will announce Friday that more than $470 million will be made immediately available for projects such as repairing crumbling roads and bridges, a White House official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan has not been publicly announced.
The move is part of President Barack Obama’s election-year effort to sidestep Congress with programs which Obama says will create jobs. Obama has adopted the slogan “We Can’t Wait” to contrast his efforts with congressional Republicans, who have balked at many of his plans.
The money initially was allocated to the Transportation Department for special projects known as earmarks from 2003 to 2006. The Republican-controlled House has since banned earmarks, which are provisions tucked into bills which direct taxpayer dollars to lawmakers’ pet projects.
Obama has vowed to veto any bill that includes earmarks and has supported efforts by lawmakers in both parties to permanently ban the practice.
But the White House official said money awarded by previous Congresses should be spent to improve the nation’s highways, transit systems and ports. Instead of letting the money sit idle, it should be used to put Americans back to work and repair the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, the official said.
Under the Transportation Department plan, states must identify how the funds will be used by Oct. 1.