If you like federal economic stimulus spending, then vote for Sen. Patty Murray, says Republican Dino Rossi, who is challenging her on the November ballot.
His campaign platform calls for canceling unspent stimulus money and directing it toward the deficit reduction.
"Maybe he doesn't know this, but there are almost 3,000 people employed by that stimulus money cleaning up that waste at the Hanford nuclear reservation right now," Murray said in the first debate between the candidates Thursday in Spokane.
"He just said he would give them a pink slip and continue to let that waste go toward the river," she said.
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Hanford -- and by extension the Tri-City economy -- has been a major recipient of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money, receiving $1.96 billion to speed up environmental cleanup of contamination left from the past production of plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons program. Through August, the latest information available, $806 million had been spent.
Hanford is facing what looks to be a tough budget year in the fiscal year that starts a year from now. President Obama wants to reduce federal spending 5 percent in fiscal 2012.
The cut comes as the Washington State Department of Ecology says Hanford will need a substantial budget increase to keep environmental cleanup on track.
It's possible to be fiscally conservative and still have a social conscious, Rossi said in response to a question about the Hanford budget.
"Those are not mutually exclusive and create room in the budget for the things you are talking about with the cleanup of Hanford," he said.
Murray said making sure Hanford is cleaned up is one of the most important tasks she has.
"I take it on with every Democratic and Republican president alike and they know it," she said. She used her position as a senior member of the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee to get $50 million added to the Senate version of the Hanford 2011 budget.
Defense spending is exempt from the proposed 5 percent budget cut for 2012 and she's arguing with administration officials that Hanford contamination was created by defense programs and cleanup should be treated as a defense program exempt from the budget cut.
The nation has a legal and moral obligation to clean up contamination left at Hanford from World War II and the Cold War and seeping toward the Columbia River, she said.
But what Murray has not said is that Hanford's nuclear waste "may be all dressed up with nowhere to go," because of Democratic opposition to opening Yucca Mountain, Nev., as the nation's repository for nuclear waste, Rossi said. Hanford's high-level waste has been planned to be sent to Yucca Mountain.
Murray countered that she continues to fight for the Nevada repository.
"But right now the most serious threat to Hanford is a budget cut that would mean we can't stop that waste from going toward the river," she said.