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Ariz. Ex-Speaker Cleared in Subsidy Case

November 03, 2001|From Associated Press

PHOENIX — The former state House speaker won't be prosecuted for his role in expanding an alternative-fuels subsidy program that will cost Arizona millions of dollars, the state attorney general said Friday.

House Speaker Jeff Groscost's actions "did not rise to the level of criminal activity," though the Legislature handled the program poorly, Arizona Atty. Gen. Janet Napolitano said.

Groscost almost single-handedly pushed through the 2000 Legislature a bill that dramatically expanded a subsidy for vehicles that use natural gas and other alternative fuels.

The subsidies allowed car buyers to recover, in some cases, more than half the purchase price. People poured into dealerships to order eligible vehicles, and the cost estimate for the program soared from $10 million a year to $680 million.

Many lawmakers said later they didn't know the program would be so generous. They since have made cutbacks in the program. Gov. Jane Hull estimated the current cost at $200 million.

Groscost, a Republican, left the House because of term limits but lost a run for the state Senate in 2000.

"In my heart I've always known what the result would be but I certainly appreciate that a Democrat attorney resisted the partisan pressure to make something out of nothing," he said Friday.

Groscost had said he wanted to encourage the use of cleaner-burning fuels and had no personal financial stake. However, he had purchased several eligible vehicles, including one from a conversion company whose president helped write the bill.

Dennis Burke, an aide to the attorney general, said the investigation concerned whether Groscost violated laws on conflict of interest, bribery, theft and financial disclosure.

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