State delegation earmarks worth over $1 billion
WASHINGTON – House members from Washington are seeking nearly $1.1 billion in earmarks in the coming fiscal year for everything from a statewide anti-meth initiative to a new children’s museum in Olympia and from sewer, water, road and dredging projects to a program promoting participation by women in Afghan politics.
Under new House rules, members had to post on their Web sites over the weekend detailed information on their earmark requests to the House Appropriations Committee. Senators will have to start posting their requests next month. Also known as “congressionally directed spending,” earmarking is the controversial practice in which lawmakers request funding for specific projects outside the normal budget process.
Democratic Rep. Norm Dicks of Belfair requested the most earmarks, 82. Rep. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, sought the most money, $262 million.
Though they steadfastly criticize earmarks, all three of the state’s Republican House members sought some.
“Member projects or ‘earmarks’ play an important role in our communities when they put federal dollars to good use, whether it’s to rebuild a road or assist a hospital to a new project to save lives,” said Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn. “Directing federal funding is part of the constitutional responsibility of members of Congress and I support doing it in a way that is accountable, transparent, and through a system the public can trust.”
Reichert, who didn’t request earmarks in the current fiscal year, said he will introduce legislation to further open up the earmark process.
Until the recent reform requiring Web postings, earmarks were often anonymous.
Washington’s House members submitted a total of almost 380 requests.
“We have always defended the right of Congress, as representatives of the people, to direct federal assistance to worthy programs in our congressional districts,” Dicks said. “The publication of all of my requests on behalf of the 6th (Congressional) District demonstrates the diversity and range of needs that we have to address each year.”
The overall number of requests and their values can be a little bit misleading as some projects were requested by multiple members. For instance, most of the state’s congressional delegation requested $2 million for the statewide methamphetamine initiative. Many also supported a major project to dredge the Columbia River from its mouth to Portland by 3 feet and to provide funding to protect the state wine industry’s “mother block” of virus-free and disease-free grape plants. The industry, which employs 19,000, pumps $3 billion into the state’s economy annually.
The numbers can also be inflated when a member supports a major national-type program in their letters to the Appropriations Committee. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, joined other members in requesting $60 million for Defense Department Impact Aid which is distributed to school districts near major military bases.
Larsen said he received 153 earmark requests from local communities, organizations and constituents, and decided to forward 51 of them to the Appropriations Committee.
Republicans continue to seem conflicted by earmarks.
Rep. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, said he supported a House-wide moratorium to “stop earmark abuse and allow for reform. However, until Democratic leaders agree to a moratorium on all representatives, I will continue to request the funding I believe is responsible and will act to protect federal programs vital to central Washington.”
Les Blumenthal: 202-383-0008
TRACKING SPENDING REQUESTS
Earmark requests from Washington delegation
REPRESENTATIVEEARMARK DOLLAR VALUE
Brian Baird, D-Vancouver71$262 million.
Norm Dicks, D-Belfair82$216 million
Rick Larsen, D-Lake Stevens51$196 million
Adam Smith, D-Tacoma58$139 million
Cathy McMorris Rodgers,
R-Deer Lake34$122 million
Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge 46$77.8 million
Doc Hastings, R-Pasco24$54.9 million
Dave Reichert, R-Auburn13$24.4 million
Jim McDermott, D-SeattleDid not post
For a list of projects requested by area congressmen, see this story online at thenewstribune.com