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The Western US may be finding new meaning in the phrase ''East-West tensions.''

Montana's Gov. Ted Schwinden claims to have sighted an old national nemisis - regional rivalry - rearing its head. He says members of Congress from the populous but hard-pressed Northeast and Midwest are trying to change the ground rules for parcelling out federal funds to the states. One change he expects to be pushed in the 98th Congress would affect the formula for distributing Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) and medicaid funds. He also says there'll be an attempt to amend the highway funding formula so states with large populations and small land areas get more money at the expense of most Western states, which have small populations but a lot more miles of highway.

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Eastern members of Congress cite the severance tax wealth of Western states as justification for their drive to ''increase their share of the shrinking federal pie,'' says Schwinden

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