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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Boehner v. Ohio (Reprise)

House Minority Leader John Boehner has again attacked the way his home state is spending its stimulus funds. And again, he’s wrong.

At his weekly news conference, Boehner criticized the Ohio Department of Transportation for using millions of dollars in American Recovery and Reconstruction Act money for a project study, rather than for construction:

Boehner, July 9: As a matter of fact, [ODOT] took $20 million of stimulus funds to — to do a study of a proposed project in southwest Ohio that — that the supporters will admit can’t — couldn’t begin construction for at least seven years.

Not true, according to ODOT. Spokesman Scott Varner said that “it had been ODOT’s intent to invest up to $20 million to plan and design a project” going east from Cincinnati, a multimodal scheme that Varner described as “transformational” for the area. Federal transportation officials “agreed with ODOT that the project was eligible and would have created and retained a number of design and engineering jobs,” Varner said. “But their preference was that we direct the money to construction-ready jobs, and that’s what we did.” ODOT even issued a press release announcing the re-direction of funds for the Cincinnati project and two others on June 15.

We asked Boehner spokesman Michael Steel about this, and he pointed us to a recent Cincinnati Enquirer story that does seem to back up the minority leader’s statement:

Enquirer, June 28: The Eastern Corridor project recently was awarded $20 million in federal stimulus money. … Construction won’t begin for at least seven years, Hubbard said.

Problem is, the story is wrong. An Associated Press story on June 16 gets it right, however.

We’ve already noted that Boehner was way off when he said on “Fox News Sunday” that, as far as he knew, no contracts for stimulus-funded infrastructure projects had been let in Ohio. In fact, contracts for 58 projects totaling $126 million have been let, and work has begun on many of them.