Judge asked to block Arizona's highway dollars

| 8/5/2005

Arizona’s most powerful public-interest attorney asked a federal judge Tuesday, Aug. 2, to block the flow of federal highway funds to the state.

Tim Hogan, executive director of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, made the request to help force state legislators to pump more money into helping more than 160,000 students in the state referred to as English-language-learners. Most of the English-language learners speak Spanish, and the state now spends more than $80 million annually to help them learn English.

Hogan told the court in a long-anticipated motion filed in U.S. District Court that lawmakers have failed to meet deadlines set by itself and the federal court, The Associated Press reported. It is his intent that forceful sanctions would spur lawmakers into action and cutting off highway dollars would do that because of the state’s interest in building new roadways.

“The federal highway funding is a pretty clean way to get at this problem,” Hogan told The Arizona Republic. “The point here is to get the Legislature to do something. We’re not interested in stopping education funds, which would hurt kids even more.”

The plaintiffs’ motion mentions an Arizona Department of Transportation report that said the state received nearly $536 million in federal transportation dollars in 2004.

It would give lawmakers an additional 30 days to pass legislation if a judge were to impose such a sanction.