Saturday, March 26, 2011

House Appropriations boss, from most-rural and 2nd-poorest district, thinks earmarks are over

Are the days of congressional earmarks over? "I think so," House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers said in a television interview broadcast today. Rogers represents southeastern Kentucky's 5th Congressional District, which is the most rural district and the second poorest, and he has used earmarks to funnel money to it for more than two decades.

Now that era appears to be over, Rogers, R-Somerset, told interviewer Bill Bryant of Lexington's WKYT-TV on "Kentucky Newsmakers," which aired this morning. Rogers said he didn't like the idea of executive-branch officials making all specific spending decisions, but "We'll be looking over their shoulder."

Rogers' main job right now is as a House negotiator for his Republican-controlled chamber's $61 billion in current budget cuts, which the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Obama administration are strongly resisting. He said making the cuts was painful. "It’s hard to do," he said. "The most difficult thing to do, though, is to try to make it as fair and even as you can." He said his constituents have indicated they are willing to go along: "As long as it’s fairly spread we’re willing to have shared sacrifices." (Lexington Herald-Leader photo by David Perry)

Rogers said the programs that he started and maintained in and near his district with earmarks will be able to continue with suppoprt from private sources and state and local governments. Perhaps the leading example is Operation UNITE (Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education). "They will be eligible to apply for grants on a competitive basis … I think successfully," he said. "They’re going to be OK." He said private support will also continue Kentucky PRIDE (Personal Responsibility In a Desirable Environment) which has cleaned up dumps, stopped blackwater discharges and taken other steps to restore and preserve the natural beauty of 38 counties he has represented in Eastern and Southern Kentucky.

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