Stimulus fixin' to be a fight in Texas

By Michael Grabell for ProPublica

Jim_Dunnam.jpgThe White House will release a state-by-state overview of infrastructure spending this afternoon. But Texas lawmakers are already feuding over how it will be spent.

House Democratic Leader Jim Dunnam lashed out at Texas Department of Transportation officials at a hearing Monday, saying that the state might have violated the law by failing to direct the stimulus money to economically distressed areas, according to the Associated Press.

TxDOT released a list last week showing how it will spend the first $500 million in road and bridge projects, and it is expected to vote Thursday on how to allocate $1.2 billion more.

Under the heading for $27.5 billion in highway funding, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act says:
In selecting projects to be carried out with funds apportioned under this heading, priority shall be given to projects that are projected for completion within a 3-year time frame, and are located in economically distressed areas...
"I don't know how you give priority on a decision after the fact, which is what you're telling me y'all are fixing to do," Dunnam told TxDOT officials, according to The Texas Observer. "And we're going to have egg all over everyone's faces if the [U.S.] Department of Transportation says they want $500 million back."

But a TxDOT spokesman told the AP that Dunnam may be misunderstanding the law.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, others are complaining that more than $700 million in stimulus money could go to toll roads, the Houston Chronicle reports.

(Photo of Texas state Rep. Jim Dunnam courtesy of the Jim Dunnam Campaign)