Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Rose By Any Other Name

The Republican House leaders imposed a temporary moratorium on earmarks for their fellow Republican members last March.

House Republicans in line to chair important committees want less-stringent earmark spending rules next year, when they hope to be in control of the chamber.

Senior Republicans are pushing for a policy that would allow earmarks, the provisions lawmakers insert in spending bills to fund projects in their districts, but would make the process more transparent. House GOP leaders imposed a temporary moratorium on all earmarks in March in a bid to demonstrate fiscal discipline in an election year.

Recognizing that some former recipients would get left out, Cathy McMorris Rodgers sent a letter to the Washington Grain Commission informing them of the moratorium.

Lawmakers are seeking input from the Washington Grain Commission to ensure projects receive funding after Republicans declared a moratorium on earmarks.

Mike Poulson, agriculture and natural resource policy director for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., spoke to the Washington Grain Commission board of commissioners May 19 during their annual meeting in Spokane.

In March, McMorris Rodgers sent a letter to Washington Grain Commission Program Director Mary Palmer Sullivan, informing the commission of the House Republican Conference's March 11 decision to adopt a one-year moratorium on all earmarks.

The current economic environment and a mounting federal debt drove the decision, McMorris Rodgers stated in the letter.

The House Republican Conference will be working to establish a "more consistent and equitable way" to fund necessary programs and projects during the moratorium, she added.

Poulson said the moratorium does not reflect a lack of support for agricultural research.

"At the time the congressmen agreed to that moratorium, it was not without recognition that we still have these much-needed areas we have to figure out a way to fund," he said.

Poulson asked for feedback from the commission on steps legislators can take to establish a new method of funding.

Commission chair Dana Herron asked Poulson and McMorris Rodgers to draft legislation to have an alternate mechanism in place to ensure programs and research priorities to receive funding.

Sullivan said several Washington programs that are annual allocations, such as Solutions to Economic and Environmental Problems, the Columbia Plateau PM10 Project and the regional Barley Genome Mapping Project, are considered earmarks. Commissioners stressed the need for an alternative to earmarks soon, and said they will respond to Poulson's request for feedback.

"In the long run, what this means is we're going to be in a better position," Poulson told the Capital Press. "Many of these things should not have had to go through the earmark process annually."

Poulson said the situation is timely, with discussions going on about the next farm bill.

Whether by earmark or an "alternative mechanism", the Washington Grain Commission projects are still funded by our tax money. While people focus on earmarks, constituting a drop in the federal bucket, the more appropriate question is, "What is the money being used for?" Money allocated for specific projects can be wasteful and an earmark can be an appropriate use of federal funds.

In the meantime, I suggest the Washington Grain Commission may benefit from this new web site developed by the Republican Party with our tax dollars.

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