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FALLS PROJECT VETO ANGERS LAWMAKERS

Republican and Democratic lawmakers reacted sharply Monday to President Clinton's elimination of a $2.1 million appropriation for construction at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Base.

Many projects have merit but "this is simply the wrong time," Clinton said as he vetoed the appropriation.

In reaction, Rep. Jack Quinn, R-Hamburg, declared: "This project is not pork. This project is a joint facility for the guard and reserve that clearly enhances the training and readiness of our military personnel."

"Once again Bill Clinton has turned his back on New York," said Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato, R-N.Y., a sponsor of the appropriation. "Because he won our state with the largest margin of any state in the country, he believes he can treat us badly."

The Niagara Falls project for a consolidated training facility was one of 38 the president targeted for elimination through his new line-item veto powers. In all, he killed $287 million in military construction from the bill.

"The use of the line-item veto . . . makes clear the old rules have, in fact, changed," Clinton declared in an Oval Office ceremony.

D'Amato and Rep. John J. LaFalce, D-Town of Tonawanda, said they will try to have the funds restored. Overriding the veto would require a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate.

LaFalce said he is "extremely disappointed" at the president's action and forecast the line-item veto will be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

LaFalce said the president erred in his veto message.

Clinton claimed the Falls base project failed on three counts to meet White House standards for approval.

On the contrary, LaFalce said, the bill providing money for a consolidated training facility at the base failed on only one criteria: the fact that Clinton himself did not ask Congress for the funds.

But on the other two standards, LaFalce said, Clinton is wrong. The president maintained that architectural and engineering work for the facility had not started, and that the facility "would not substantially improve the quality of life for service personnel at Niagara Falls."

LaFalce said: "The facility's design work had been completed, and the project would have been constructed this year."

The center, LaFalce said, would have "provided a substantial contribution . . . by increasing the readiness of each of the units at the base."

The base is home to the 914th Airlift Wing, which saw action in Operation Desert Storm, and the 107th Air Refueling Group, which aided United Nations forces in Bosnia.

State Sen. Anthony Nanula, D-Buffalo, said he most regrets the loss of jobs and overall economic impact the project would have provided.

Merrill Lane, chairman of the Niagara Falls Military Affairs Council, said his group worked closely with LaFalce and the two U.S. senators on the bill and that the president's action "caught me off-guard."

Lane said he hopes the veto is not an indication that the base faces future problems with the Defense Department.

Clinton also vetoed $9 million for a gunnery range at Fort Drum, near Watertown.

Other targets of Clinton's veto included $20 million for a wharf at Virginia's Norfolk Naval Shipyard; $17.9 million for dredging and pier improvements at the Mayport Naval Station in Florida; $16 million for new rail track at Fort Carson, Colo.; and $14 million for a flight simulation training facility at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.

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