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City mayors want share of stimulus dollars

Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido said today that mayors from across the country have reached an agreement with key members of Congress that will likely take as much as $150 billion of the federal economic stimulus package that would have gone to states and route it directly to city governments.

In his third lobbying trip since last month, Pulido joined a score of other mayors, including L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to lobby key members of Congress to give cities a share of the funding.

“We need immediate projects and local projects, and we need to be able to move quickly,” Pulido said in a phone interview from the Phoenix airport, where he was on a stopover on his way back to California.

Pulido said he and other California politicians, including the mayors of Sacramento, San Jose, San Diego and Fresno, made last-minute appeals to express concern that because of the budget mess in Sacramento, state lawmakers would use the money to balance the state budget rather than start infrastructure projects.

“The intent of this money is to stimulate the economy to create jobs, not to balance budgets,” Pulido said.

The state already has stalled projects from courthouse construction to transportation improvements, he said, and -- along with other mayors -- argues that cities are better positioned to put the federal money to good use.

“We want to make sure that the money is used for what it's intended for, and if we can make sure we have a large share of it, and we will, we'll make sure it is spent locally,” he said. “Not to get in a battle with the governors, but we exist too, and we do things well.”

A January report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors identified nearly $150 billion in “ready to go” local infrastructure projects in 779 cities across the country. If all the projects are funded, the group estimated, they could generate about 1.6 million jobs in 2009 and 2010.

Though a $789-billion compromise on the stimulus has been worked out by House and Senate negotiators, nothing is final before Congress casts final votes and President Obama signs the bill.

--Tony Barboza

 
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