Friday, June 27, 2008

Politics Trumps Governance UPDATE : Republicans Delay (?) Earmark Proposal

I know I should lose some weight, exercise more and eat healthier, but why start now ?
I thought about maybe a New Year’s resolution, but why commit to that now ?

Following up on earlier commentary, The Hill reports “The Senate Republican Conference will wait until at least July to consider long-awaited reforms to the earmarking process.
From January to April to June and now til July – more proof that the GOP realizes that there are problems with “pork-barrel projects” but that “pork-barrel projects” may be beneficial for re-election purposes. They can blame it on “the heavy business awaiting Senate action before the Fourth of July” (funny, but Bush warned us about the dangers without his FISA bill, but that vote won’t be until July 8 even though the Senate voted overwhelming to move to final vote … what is the Senate working on?), but since the “earmark” proposal has been pending for so long, they just don’t want to address it before November's election. The fact is that the Senate is in the middle of the Appropriations review process (the HHS-Labor-Education, Commerce-Justice-Science, and Homeland Security budgets are done but the DOD mega-budget and others are in review).
Why don't they admit it, they don’t want to operate under any scrutiny now.
Under existing procedures, things can be done. For example, remember the Farm bill and how Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell included $60 to $70 million in tax breaks for the horse racing industry. His authorization would be deemed by most as “pork-barrel” spending.

Minnesotans can tell the difference between “pork-barrel projects” and a justified “earmark” … just ask any of the Minnesota county engineers who say that 70% of the Minnesota’s roads and bridges are worse off than they were ten years ago.

Let me be clear, earmarks are not implicitly bad.
We need transparency and agreement between state and federal governments on which projects are best needed.
That takes leadership.
Good leadership is exemplified by First District Representative Tim Walz (D-MN) and 45 other Representatives who have embraced transparency.
But the “political” fears of acknowledging “earmarks” is impacting good governance.
Poor leadership (is that an oxymoron?) is exemplified by Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN).
Read the letters between Fourth District Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) and the Governor over “acknowledging” $165,000,000 worth of earmarks that the Pawlenty administration requested from her office for FY2009 authorizations. The projects being discussed include transportation projects and federal funding for the Minnesota National Guard.

Transparency and common sense spending is at stake … not political points to be used in election year campaign speeches.

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