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Military spending on the agenda as US mayors meet in Baltimore

Money spent on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq should be spent at home under a resolution proposed Friday by U.S. mayors who called on Congress to hasten the end of the wars.

The resolution proposed at the opening of the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting wants Congress to redirect the military spending to domestic priorities. The resolution says $126 billion is being spent each year on the wars that should be spent at home to create jobs, rebuild infrastructure, develop sustainable energy and provide for other needs.

The conference, which ends Monday, represents mayors of the more than 1,200 cities nationwide with a population of more than 30,000.

When asked to respond to those who argue military efforts overseas have made American cities safer from foreign terrorists, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa pointed to the cost of the wars.

“How did we get to a deficit and a debt larger than at any time not only in U.S. history but in human history? We got involved in two wars that, no matter what you think about those wars, we haven’t paid for,” Villaraigosa said.

“That we would build bridges in Baghdad and Kandahar and not Baltimore and Kansas City, absolutely boggles the mind.”

Many of the mayors speaking at a news conference opening the four-day event also criticized federal cuts that they say have increased the burden on local governments, cuts Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter called the “Great Retreat by the federal government.”

Burnsville, Minn., Mayor Elizabeth Kautz, the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said safety at home should be the top priority.

“And along with that it is about our economy and it is about getting people back to work, and it is about reinvesting in those efforts that will help us retain jobs and create jobs in our country,” Kautz said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told the mayors during a luncheon address that their gathering comes at a critical moment and “investing in America’s cities is the answer to our economic crisis.”

The Democrat also criticized Republicans in the ongoing debate over the budget.

“We do not agree with the Republican plan that ends Medicare while giving away tax breaks to Big Oil; slashes support for seniors in nursing homes while giving away tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas; cuts education for children and raises the cost of college while giving tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans,” Pelosi said.

Those moves add $1 trillion to the deficit and repeals health reform, which Pelosi said recognizes health care “as a right for all Americans, not just the privileged few.”