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Earmark Funding: Obama's “We Can’t Wait” Initiative

The White House announced last Friday that it would redirect $473 million of “idle” earmark funding to highway projects as part of President Obama’s “We Can’t Wait” initiative. The plan will redistribute unspent earmarks from FY 2003-2006 and would be “immediately available to states for projects,” including eligible highway, transit, passenger rail, and port projects, “that will create jobs and help improve transportation across the country.” Some of the earmarked highway funds are nearly 10 years old.

States must identify the projects for which they plan to use the funds by October 1, and must obligate them by December 31, 2012. "Use it or lose it" is the name of the idle earmarks game.

DATA Act's Possible Burden on Local Government

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone on Capitol Hill, or any average American for that matter, who’s not in favor of federal financial accountability and transparency, particularly in the wake of the GSA Las Vegas spending scandal. The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (H.R. 2146), commonly referred to as the DATA Act, is intended to take federal transparency to the next level, making recipients and subrecipients of federal funding more accountable for how funds (grants, loans, or otherwise) are used.

5 Federal Sites to Help Your Grant Proposal

Grants come with stipulations. That's a given. And an effective grant proposal comes with verified, accurate, and timely information that supports your statement of need. Fortunately, there are a number of useful federal websites you can take advantage of to compose a winning proposal as well as keep track of legislation affecting local government agencies like yours.

DHS Grant Consolidation Draws Criticism

Senate Committee Approves Transportation and HUD Budget

On April 17, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development and Related Agencies approved its FY 2013 spending bill, which includes $3.1 billion for the Community Development Block Grant program (an increase of $152 million from FY 2012) and a restoration of funding to the Sustainable Communities Initiative program. TIGER received $500 million, Choice Neighborhoods $120 million, and the Sustainable Communities Initiative $50 million. The bill includes $39.1 billion for federal highway programs and $1.75 billion for rail infrastructure, including funding proposed for Amtrak, which is to receive $1.45 billion. Read this analysis for a detailed breakdown of the appropriations.

Experts Weigh In When the Earmarks Are Out

On Monday, I wrote about how the ban on earmarks has negatively affected small cities around the U.S. that once depended on such funding, as well as strategies that cities could adopt to fill the gap left behind. For this follow-up post, I’ve called on public policy experts and veteran grant writers to provide their opinion on the issue, posing the following question to them:

Bringing Home the Bacon in the Post-Pork Barrel Era

The word “earmark” is generally considered a dirty seven-letter word synonymous with frivolous spending and bribery, conjuring up the “Bridge to Nowhere” and the Randy “Duke” Cunninghan bribery scandal—pork barrel spending at its worst. The deaths of veteran lawmakers who were top players in the inside appropriations game—Ted Kennedy (MA), Robert Byrd (WV), Ted Stevens (AK), and John Murtha (PA)—helped weaken the defense of earmarks, which are now on mortatorium.**

But it’s not frivolous spending if your community benefits from the spending, some have argued. Earmarks once provided many small cities with the necessary funding for key projects. As Dr. Susan Tolchin, professor of public policy at George Mason University, has argued, "What's wrong with an earmark if the project is worthy?" ("What's So Bad About Earmarks?") Dr. Karen Kunz, professor of public administration at West Virginia University, is quoted in The New York Times as saying, “[M]ost earmark funding was for local infrastructure or social services.” If you're a city administrator who once relied on earmarks for such worthwhile infrastructure projects, chances are you’ve struggled over the past couple of years to match the funding that earmarks once provided.

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