The Washington Post reports in Obama Signs Spending Bill, Calls for Earmark Guidelines:
President Obama today signed what he called an "imperfect" spending bill to keep the government running even though it contains thousands of lawmakers' pet projects, but he called for more rigorous review of future projects, known as earmarks, that are designated by individual legislators for their states or districts. . . .
. . .Obama called on Congress to enact a series of guidelines that he said would not eliminate earmarks but would force lawmakers to be more transparent about them and would crack down on those that benefit private companies. He said it "should go without saying that an earmark must never be traded for political favors." The guidelines are aimed at curbing the number of pet projects in appropriations bills, setting up a potential battle with lawmakers who have clung to the spending items.
So far as we can tell, Congressman Walz is already operating as if those rules are in place. He publicly releases free lists of the budget requests he is making, as the Sunlight Foundation notes here and the Mankato Free Press reported here. None of the earmarks go to private companies.
A press release from the Walz congressional office:
SIXTEEN LOCAL PROJECTS SIGNED INTO LAW
Walz’s appropriations requests signed into law earlier today as part of the Omnibus Appropriations bill
(Washington, D.C.) – Earlier today, President Obama signed the federal funding of sixteen important local projects into law that will help create and save jobs across southern Minnesota. The funds, which were requested by Congressman Tim Walz are included in the FY 2009 Omnibus Appropriations bill. The bill passed the Senate yesterday.
“Projects like Highway 14 are critically important to southern Minnesota’s economic recovery,” said Walz. “These funds will not only create jobs as we expand the existing highway to four lanes, but it will also create economic opportunity for the majority of southern Minnesota’s businesses, who use Highway 14 to ship their goods.”
“These funds will do more than just create jobs,” continued Walz. “These investment dollars strengthen the fabric of our communities. Lewis and Clark Regional Water System, Bolder Options, the Sherriff’s Youth Program, and Winona State’s National Child Protection Training Center will ensure that our children drink clean water, receive invaluable support from caring adult mentors, and be less likely to fall pray to child predators. Investments like these in the future of our country are priceless.”
The FY2009 Omnibus Appropriations bill funding at the request of Congressman Walz for the following projects:
$200,000 for Bolder Options
To expand Bolder Options' youth mentorship program into the Rochester area
$713,625 for the Center for Renewable Energy at Minnesota State University, Mankato
This funding would support on-going research into cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel and other renewable forms of energy.
$290,000 for Crop Disease Research at the University of Minnesota
Research into crop diseases that threaten Minnesota's wheat, oat and barley industries.
$235,000 for the Competitive Farm Benchmarking Program at the University of Minnesota
Funding for a project that helps farmers compare their costs of production and maximize their efficiencies of operation.
$323,000 for Hormel Institute in Austin
Funds would help the Hormel Center develop an International Center of Research Technology to provide cutting edge technology to biomedical researchers from across the country and the world.
$2,375,000 Hwy 14 Waseca-Owatonna
Funds would support the four-lane expansion of Highway 14 from Waseca to I-35 at Owatonna.
$475,000 for 55th Street in Rochester
Funds would provide for final design, right-of-way acquisition and first stage construction of a 1.9 mile extension of 55th Street as a 4-lane expressway.
$27,000,000 for Lewis and Clark Regional Water System
Centered in twenty communities in western Minnesota, northern Iowa, and eastern South Dakota, this pipeline provides treated water from the Missouri River to more than 300,000 people in three states.
Several Members of Congress from three states requested this funding. This area is so desperately short of water that there are restrictions on constructing new small business and residences; the pipeline will be essential to the economic viability of these small towns. Many of the communities involved have pre-paid the local share of the project, in order to keep inflationary costs at a minimum, and are only awaiting the federal share.
$700,000 for the National Child Protection Training Center at Winona State University
The Center trains social workers, teachers, and health care professionals to recognize and report signs of child abuse.
$500,000 for the Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota and Iowa
This project will support land acquisition to add acreage to the refuge.
$181,000 for St. Elizabeth’s Hospital Fresh Start Disease Prevention Program
Funds would support the expansion of a chronic disease management program in Wabasha to help participants reduce their risk of heart disease.
$190,000 for St. Mary’s University’s Teacher Mentorship Program
Funds would help expand the university's educator professional development programs by using technology to allow greater outreach to teachers in MN with impact on thousands of students in critical STEM subjects.
$200,000 for Sheriffs Youth Program in Rochester.
Funding would support the expansion of SYP’s services for at-risk youth.
$712,000 for Transit Operations Center in Rochester
Would fund the construction of a new 60-bus garage facility; as well as a new park-and-ride facility in Rochester.
$8,604,000 for Upper Mississippi River Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program
This multi-state project was requested by several Members of Congress. It will provide for the first phases of construction of new 1,200 foot lock chambers at several locks and dams along the Mississippi, implement small-scale navigation aids; and begin ecosystem restoration projects along the Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway.
$951,000 for Veterans Re-Entry Education Program in St. Paul
Funds would help Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and three state agencies create programs to help returning veterans find employment and educational opportunities.
While most of the federal funding for FY2009 was delayed until now, some funding bills did become law before President Bush left office. In the FY2009 bills that became law last year, Walz also secured the following funding:
$2 million for the Minnesota National Guard Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Program
$704,000 for the National Guard's Minnesota Army National Guard Armory Emergency Response Generators
$1.3 million for the Minnesota Helicopter Civil Band Radio Communication
$2.224 million for Minnesota Satellite Multi-Modal Collaborative Crisis and Training Network
$400,000 for flood mitigation in Owatonna, Minnesota
Photo: Congressman Walz and a constituent in Luverne. Image courtesy of Cornerhouse Comments.