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Sun., Dec. 21
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Stimulus emerges as issue in 23rd race

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WASHINGTON — The federal economic stimulus has poured about $100 million into the 23rd Congressional District, but has saved or created only about 200 jobs, by government estimates.

The mixed performance of the stimulus — and incomplete or incorrect statistics about its effects — are adding fuel to Northern New York's congressional race. Opponents of president Obama's agenda are trying to use the issue to attack Democrat William L. Owens and, to a lesser degree, Republican Dierdre K. Scozzafava, who have both said they would have voted for it in Congress.

The latest dust-up on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act came Thursday, when the Associated Press reported that the administration overstated the number of jobs by thousands. The administration responded that a more accurate count will be released today, showing hundreds of thousands of jobs saved or created around the country, and that the AP report included the earliest statistics reflecting just 2 percent of stimulus funding.

In the north country, the administration reported a little more than $12 million in federal contracts in the greater Watertown area — excluding Fort Drum — but not a single job saved or created. But that is just a part of the legislation's reach.

The spending was more impressive at Fort Drum, where the government reported $26 million spent, but still only 17 jobs saved or created. The stimulus included a total of about $84 million in construction and maintenance at the installation that apparently has not been fully accounted on the Web site, last updated Oct. 20.

That spending rivals the congressional earmarks that have become a regular feature of the building boom at Fort Drum.

Mr. Owens, the only candidate to fully embrace the measure, said through a spokesman that the stimulus was a first step toward rebuilding the economy and that he would have preferred to see more direct investment in infrastructure — an approach embraced by many economists but opposed by conservatives who preferred more tax breaks they say encourage spending.

"We must recognize that eight years worth of George Bush economic policies that created this recession won't be reversed in eight months with a single piece of legislation; there's no silver bullet solution that will fix our economy overnight," Mr. Owens said. "The president's recovery package was a necessary first step to turn the page on the Bush economic policies that got us in to the mess we're facing. While I would like to see more resources directly allocated for investments in infrastructure, I support what was passed because it provided for the largest tax cut for middle class families in American history and is taking steps towards getting Americans back to work."

The conservative candidate, Douglas L. Hoffman, has criticized the stimulus for being directed toward municipal budgets or to special interest projects. A spokesman did not return a message Thursday seeking elaboration, particularly on the question of funds spent at Fort Drum, the biggest beneficiary in the region.

Rep. John M. McHugh, R-Pierrepont Manor, Fort drum's greatest ally in Congress, voted against the stimulus, citing its cost.

Other spending in the region includes $2.6 million for sewer improvements in the town of Madrid; $694,000 for capital improvements at the Ogdensburg Housing Authority; $95,000 in housing subsidy assistance in Watertown; $1.3 million in capital improvements at the Watertown housing authority; $93,000 in capital improvements at the West Carthage housing authority; and $179,000 for capital improvements at the town of Wilna housing authority.

The north country's share of other stimulus funding, such as home weatherization assistance, isn't final. But New York received $394.6 million, far more than any other state, and the north country is a prime candidate for such assistance because of harsh weather and low incomes.

Ms. Scozzafava has said she supported the stimulus but wanted to see more money spent on transportation projects, sewer construction and rural broadband, all of which she said would have longer-term benefits to the region.

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