GOP's Crist slammed for Florida's dead last stimulus rank

MIAMI — Gov. Charlie Crist, hailed as a model of bipartisanship when he reached across the aisle to support President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan, now faces criticism for failing to aggressively secure and spend Florida's share of the federal bailout.

First, Florida ranked dead last for federal dollars promised per capita, based on numbers posted on a White House website last month.

Now, a key congressional committee says Florida also ranks last when it comes to actually spending federal highway stimulus money it does receive.

In a letter sent Thursday, U.S. Rep. James L. Oberstar, D-Minnesota, chided Crist for failing to spend "quickly, efficiently, and in harmony with job creating purposes of the Act.''

Oberstar, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee, noted that Florida had spent 2 percent of the $1.35 billion allocated for highway projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed in March.

The average across the country: 23 percent of the highway money spent as of July.

In his letter to Crist, Oberstar cited a Maryland repaving project that was awarded on the day the federal Recovery Act became law. Work began within in a week, Oberstar wrote.

The ranking Republican on the transportation committee, Orlando's John Mica, said: "I just about fell to the floor when I read the report . . . to wind up 51st is kind of embarrassing.''

Florida trails all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Crist's spokeswoman, Erin Isaac, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

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