N.C. politicians disagree over value of earmarks

After House and Senate Republicans voiced their support last month to prohibit earmarks in the next Congress, North Carolina politicians have offered differing opinions about the potential ban.

Republicans have criticized earmarks—small provisions tucked into bills that guarantee money for local projects—as fiscally irresponsible additions to the nation’s deficit. A vote Nov. 30 in the Senate on the proposed earmark ban failed 39-56, but given that Republicans will have a majority in the House and enough senators to filibuster bills in the Senate, earmarks will not likely be able to be passed even without a formal ban.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C, said in a statement that banning earmarks will help curb excessive government spending.

“The ban on earmarks is an important step toward bringing our country’s $13 trillion debt down to sustainable levels,” he said. “It is also important that limited resources are allocated according to a transparent, competitive process, not by congressional district.”

Politicians on both sides of the aisle have criticized the abuse of earmarks, alleging that politicians have manipulated the system in order to bring home the most “pork” to their home district.

But Rep. David Price, D-N.C. for the 4th congressional district, said in a statement that he believes earmarks are integral to the funding of local projects as long as they are vetted vigorously. Andrew High, Price’s press secretary, said that earmarks can be sometimes valuable to constituents.

“Rep. Price has always vetted funding requests vigorously to ensure they are well-conceived and meet a pressing local need,” High said in a statement. “Some examples of things he has gotten funding for in the last two years include a new North Carolina Emergency Operations Center, a community-based mental health care facility, a community college job training program and solar energy research.”

High also noted that the idea of a non-binding “earmark ban” may be susceptible to abuse.

“Whether or not an ‘earmark ban’ is just a matter of semantics for the incoming majority remains to be seen. Now that they have passed the ban, Republicans are talking about how to change the definition of earmark so that the projects they believe are meritorious don’t count.”

Although Durham Mayor Bill Bell said he was unaware of the specifics of Republicans’ recent actions against earmarks, he noted that the Bull City has benefited from such funds over the years.

“[W]e were able to get some fuel-efficient buses that, without earmarks, we would not have been able to buy,” he said. “[Without earmarks], we would not be in the position where we are now.”

John Aldrich, Pfizer-Pratt University Professor of Political Science, said the Tarheel State is not a particularly large recipient of earmarks and noted that the ban is unlikely to drastically affect the state’s ability to fund projects. In the current fiscal year, North Carolina ranks 43rd in earmarks with $144 million coming to the state, The (Raleigh) News & Observer reported.


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