Central Valley

Valley State of the Union react falls along party lines

WASHINGTON -- Northern San Joaquin Valley lawmakers reacted along party lines to to President Bush's final State of the Union Address, a speech Democrats say recycled many of the administration's past initiatives.

Local lawmakers criticized a lack of mention of issues of interest to Northern San Joaquin residents, including the Farm Bill and clean fuel.

The president pushed hard for "a robust growth package" to jump-start the economy, asking Democrats to avoid the temptation "to load up the bill."

Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced endorsed Bush's attention to the economic stimulus package, which he supports. But he also suggested the president, not just Congress, also is responsible for spending for local projects, known as "earmarks."

"This year's Congress has fought for unprecedented transparency and accountability in the earmark process, and we look forward to working with the Bush White House to shine more light on earmarks requested by the president and Congress," he said.

The Democratic-controlled Congress approved bills containing as many as 11,000 projects last year, by some counts, though the local programs funded by earmarks make up less than 1 percent of the budget, according to The New York Times.

Rep. Jerry McNerney, D—Pleasanton, said he made public the list of earmarks he sought. He called Bush's attention to earmarks "a belated call for reform." "I am pleased President Bush is joining this effort," he said.

Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, lauded Bush for taking on both illegal immigration and entitlement spending on programs such as Medicaid.

And he praised Bush's speech on numerous other fronts, including the Iraq war, taxes, and support for economic stimulus.

Bush said allowing previous tax cuts to lapse would raise bills for 116 million Americans, but Democrats have cited the rising deficits as the war in Iraq continues.

"We are spending billions of dollars every month in Iraq," Cardoza said. "And our deficit continues to grow."

The president warned, as he has repeatedly, that pulling Americans out of Iraq too soon would aid al-Qaida and undermine Iraq's government.

"There is no doubt that the progress made over the last year in Iraq has exceeded everyone's expectations," Radanovich said. "The president made it clear that there will continue to be hard fighting ahead — the threat of radical Islamic extremists is very real. He was also clear that the enemy is on the run."

McNerney said that although the president mentioned need to move from dependence on foreign oil, the call was one made in previous State of the Union speeches without notable result. He said the commitment also was at odds with threats made to veto an energy bill that would have extended investment and production tax credits to encourage innovation.

Cardoza said notably missing from the speech was mention of the Farm Bill. "I sincerely hope that at this time of economic uncertainty, the president understands how critical enacting a new Farm Bill is to our agricultural economy."

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