Republican Rep. James V. Hansen admits he once voted against a bill he co-sponsored to raise the speed limit to 65 mph but says it was merely a procedural maneuver.
Hansen said his negative vote was aimed at trying to remove budget-busting projects and at protecting funds for Utah.Democrat Gunn McKay has made the vote a camgaign issue through stinging advertisements that accuse Hansen of flip-flopping and deceiving voters.
Hansen's own TV ads give credit to the incumbent congressman for passing the 1987 bill.
"Jim is seriously misleading the public by saying he passed the 65-mph increase," said McKay spokesman David Dixon. "If you don't support a bill on its finalpassage, how can you take credit for it?"
At issue is Hansen's vote on March 31, 1987, to sustain President Reagan's veto of the Omnibus Highway Reauthorization Act, which contained the 65 mph provision. Congress overrode the veto.
Hansen spokesman Kathy Gallegos said Hansen voted to sustain the veto at Reagan's request because 120 pork-barrel projects had been added to the bill, makingit $10 billion over budget.
"The president was committed to 65 and told Jim that he would support a new bill if his veto was upheld," Gallegos said. "We knew we had the votes to pass itagain; 65 was never in jeopardy."
Hansen had voted for the bill, including the 65 mph provision, when it passedthe House and again after it was amended by the Senate and before it went to theWhite House according to the Congressional Record.
The final bill on which Hansen voted "yes" was the same bill vetoed by Reagan. It contained the alleged pork-barrel projects and a fund formula that Hansen said cost Utah $14 million in highway money.
But Gallegos said Hansen voted for the bill knowing that Reagan would veto it. She said his "yes" vote was intended as a show of support for the 65 mph amendment.
"I worked for Gunn McKay and he knows how things work back here, and if he's trying to say that Jim opposed 65 in any way or flip-flopped, then shame on him," Gallegos said.
Gallegos was on McKay's staff for a time when he represented the 1st Congresional District from 1971 to 1980.
McKay's television and radio ads chide Hansen on the 65 issue, saying, "He has a perfect record: for it and against it."
Dixon pointed out that Hansen was the only congressman from Utah who voted tosustain Reagan's veto. Republican Rep. Wayne Owens voted with the majority to override.
After eight years in office, Hansen has been ineffective representing the state's interests, Dison said.
"And on one of his major projects for Utah, it turns out he blew it," Dixon said. "Either he doesn't understand the process or he is trying to mislead the voters."
Dixon said McKay agrees with the 65 mph law.
Hansen's campaign manager Peter Jenks called McKay's accusations "blatant distortion."
"It was a procedural process and Gunn McKay knows that," Jenks said of the vote to sustain Reagan's veto. "We would have had a new bill within 30 hours that would have taken out the pork and kept the 65."