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WASHINGTON JOURNAL

Freshman Democrats had expected a harried pace when they stepped into the halls of Congress, but many are irked at the GOP leadership for accomplishing a whole lotta nothing.

This session of Congress has seen one-fifth as many votes as the previous session had by this point, and few big issues have come up for votes.

Two years ago, the House was in a whirlwind of bill-passing in the early stages of the Contract With America. This year, a humbled House Speaker Newt Gingrich and a less-ambitious set of goals have resulted in a ho-hum year.

Now Congress is starting a two-week recess. The newly elected Democrats, who are eager to tell their constituents about their accomplishments, are growing a bit stir-crazy.

"It is time to get down to doing the job that we were sent here to do," 24 of them _ including Reps. Jim Davis of Tampa and Allen Boyd of Monticello _ wrote in a letter to Gingrich and Majority Leader Dick Armey.

Chief among their concerns is the April 15 deadline for a budget resolution. The freshman Democrats, along with many other lawmakers, worry that there will not be enough time to develop a solid plan, even though GOP leaders had promised this would be a top priority.

"I am concerned that there is a lack of commitment to . . . (this) critical issue," Boyd said.

Florida gets pinched again

Federal officials say Florida will get more highway money under President Clinton's new proposal, but some lawmakers think the administration should check its math.

Under Clinton's six-year, $175-billion transportation proposal, Florida would get $818-million to improve and build highways, up $85-million from current levels.

But the state only receives more because the entire federal pie grows. Florida's slice of the pie actually shrinks, from 4.25 percent of the total available to 4.08 percent.

Florida Sen. Bob Graham, a Democrat, long has argued that Florida gets shortchanged when the pie is divided, and he wants the administration to bring out the calculators again.

Graham and other lawmakers have proposed changes to the current funding method that would even out the share for Florida and other "donor states" _ those that pay more to the federal government than they get back for highway upkeep. He had expected the Clinton administration to follow suit.

The president's offering is "incomprehensible," Graham said. "I am not confident that . . . (Clinton's proposal) meets this challenge."

Some other donor states, such as North Carolina and Mississippi, also would continue to get shortchanged under the president's plan.

"It's ironic that Florida is the fourth-largest state, the third-fastest growing, and yet it ranks 45th in rate of return," said Doug Callaway, federal program coordinator for the Florida Department of Transportation. "It's mystifying."

_ Times staff writers Ceci Connolly and Katherine Gazella contributed to this report.

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