Hull says Hoover bypass a priority

Completion of the Hoover Dam Bridge bypass is a top priority, Gov.

Jane Dee Hull told a Kingman audience Wednesday.

"Hoover Dam is a major national security issue," Hull told the Kingman Rotary Club during a visit which included her appointment of Charlotte Wells, Kingman city attorney, to a vacant Mohave County Superior Court judgeship.

Hull said Sen.

Jon Kyle, R-Ariz., has met with Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge about the Hoover Dam bypass and "is pushing to get the full $218 million for the bridge funded through the Homeland Security budget."

Hoover Dam has been closed to truck, recreational vehicle and bus traffic since September for fear of a terrorist attack.

Heavy vehicles have been diverted south through Bullhead City and Laughlin, Nev.

"We know the truck traffic through Bullhead City has been destructive for the local economy," Hull said.

"We want to change that as soon as we can."

She said the bridge is a focus of every meeting that she attends concerning NAFTA and the Canamex Corridor.

She discussed it while meeting with Mexican authorities recently and talked about the bridge while meeting with a Canadian delegation Tuesday.

"The money would come out of a different budget if Senator Kyl is successful," she said.

"We know the federal highway budget will be tighter because gas tax revenue is down."

Debra Brisk, newly named deputy director of the Arizona Department of Transportation, has been involved in the federal, Arizona and Nevada planning group for the bypass while serving as Kingman District engineer.

The $218 million in federal funds sought by Hull is the key, Brisk said during an interview last week.

Brisk said she would continue to represent Arizona about the project, adding it is an ADOT priority.

The governor Wednesday also said the legislature will need to cut the fiscal 2002 and 2003 budgets further to resolve the state's financial crisis.

"It looks like $1 billion will need to be cut from the 2002 budget," she said.

"Another $1 billion will need to be cut from the 2003 budget if current revenue estimates hold."

She said one of the difficult decisions will be whether to cut $100 million for state employee raises, or 2,500 jobs.

Increasing taxes would be the wrong action during a recession particularly because of the affect upon small businesses, she said.

"There is not much that the governor can do to solve the budget problem," Hull said.

"I can use the bully pulpit with the public and the legislature and ask agencies to reduce spending."

She does have some veto power over budget legislation, she added.

The limited portion of the budget that is subject to cuts increases the pain where the budget is reduced, she said.

"Sixty percent of the budget is formula driven or voter approved and not subject to cuts," Hull said.

"That makes the cuts twice as large in the part we can cut."

On the bright side, Hull said, $10 million in state school facilities funds will be going to Mohave County schools.

Internet hookup for every child will be ready by February 2002.

"Education is the future of our communities and our state," she said.