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.
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:
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.