ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that Republican rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio would "slash" spending on projects to fix aging roads and bridges, urging Congress to pass a plan to rebuild the nation's transportation system.
Appealing to a bellwether region in one of the nation's top swing states, Clinton promoted her plan to spend $275 billion to fix the nation's crumbling bridges, highways and airports, saying it would create tens of thousands of "good-paying" jobs in Florida and across the country. An additional $25 billion would fund a national infrastructure bank, reprising a proposal by President Barack Obama that has been blocked by congressional Republicans.
The Democratic presidential candidate singled out Rubio, Florida's senator, and Cruz, the Texas senator whose campaign has gained momentum in Iowa, accusing them of opposing federal efforts to rebuild the nation's transportation system.
"We've got Republican candidates for president who want to slash what we spend by 80 percent," Clinton said. "Ted Cruz has supported legislation to do that and I really don't understand it — Marco Rubio followed right along. He wants to slash funding."
Rick Tyler, a Cruz campaign spokesman, said Clinton's team "must be reading the same polls we are that show Cruz rising so it is not surprising she would attack. That's all she can do because she has no ideas of her own."
Clinton said Florida has four of the nation's worst traffic bottlenecks and that Orlando commuters, for example, spend 46 hours a year behind the wheel because of traffic congestion.
She also criticized Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is serving his second term, for rejecting more than $2 billion in federal funding for a high-speed railway system in the state and for not expanding Medicaid under Obama's overhaul of the health care system.
Clinton delivered her remarks before hundreds of enthusiastic supporters crowded into a gymnasium who waved signs in English and Spanish. The region is home to many Puerto Rican voters and Clinton, referring to it as "Puerto Rico's 79th municipality," said every presidential candidate should "give attention to Puerto Rico and should remind our fellow Americans Puerto Ricans are American citizens."
The former secretary of state, who faces Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, has been looking to build strength beyond the leadoff contests of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. Clinton urged Florida voters to "make sure you're registered to vote, make sure you do vote on March the first," flubbing the date of the state's primary. Florida's primary will be held on March 15.
The event was part of a two-day visit that includes a flurry of private fundraisers, from Miami to Jacksonville. It was her fourth visit to the coveted swing state.
Associated Press writer Ken Thomas in Washington contributed to this report.