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Palin on Earmarks
Posted by: MichaelW on Wednesday, September 03, 2008

During Palin's speech tonight, we may hear some similar statements as she delivered in a response (March 5, 2008) to an Editorial in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (March 2, 2008), defending her decision to take on the earmark habit within Alaska. (Both articles at the link.) Specifically, she responded to this passage:
Gov. Palin has made much of being against the widespread use of earmarks and has said she wants the state to seek fewer of them from Congress. OK, but does the governor also intend for local governments to submit fewer requests to the congressional delegation? Surely the existence of so many earmark requests from local governments and other groups is just as problematic for her as the number of state requests seems to be. Does she find fault, for example, with the Fairbanks school district seeking federal funds for the North Pole High School project? Is she ready to provide state funding for the projects listed above?
The Governor took issue with that framing of the debate, among other things, and laid her stance on earmarks in a fairly comprehensive manner:
I am not among those who have said "earmarks are nothing more than pork projects being shoveled home by an overeager congressional delegation." I recognize that Congress, which exercises the power of the purse, has the constitutional responsibility to put its mark on the federal budget, including adding funds that the president has not proposed.

Accordingly, my administration has recommended funding for specific projects and programs when there is an important federal purpose and strong citizen support.

This year, we have requested 31 earmarks, down from 54 in 2007. Of these, 27 involve continuing or previous appropriations and four are new requests. The total dollar amount of these requests has been reduced from approximately $550 million in the previous year to just less than $200 million.

I believe this represents a responsible approach to the changing situation in Congress. Some misinterpret this as criticism of our congressional delegation.

In fact, it responds to messages from the Congressional delegation and the Bush administration. They have told us that the number of earmarks in the federal budget will be reduced and that there must be a strong federal purpose underlying each request.

We have also heard that, wherever possible, earmark requests must be accompanied by a state or local match. So, there are state budget consequences that must be considered as well when we ask for federal help.

There is no inconsistency or hypocrisy between my previous statements concerning earmarks and the recommendations my administration made to the delegation on Feb. 15. Specifically, I said earlier that the state would submit no more than 12 new requests, excluding earmarks for ongoing projects and the Alaska National Guard. Our recommendations are consistent with my previous comments and recognize the new budgetary realities in D.C.

Further, I applaud the delegation's decision to post all earmark requests. Posting, along with other reforms, will help insure the open and transparent public process that good government demands.

Regarding your comments concerning earmarks requested by local governments and other Alaska entities, I have never sought to impose my views on their activities. In fact, my D.C. office meets with dozens of local governments and others requesting earmarks and this interaction has always been cooperative and cordial.

Each entity must interpret the new realities in D.C. for itself. The final decisions about which earmark requests to pursue are made by the congressional delegation as our representatives in Congress.

My role at the federal level is simply to submit the most well-conceived earmark requests we can. Of course, since the congressional delegation has told us that they expect state or local matches, requests submitted by others may have implications for the Alaska Legislature as well.

As I have said previously, we can either respond to the changing circumstances in Congress or stick our heads in the sand. For better or worse, earmarks, which represent only about 1 percent of the federal budget, have become a symbol for budgetary discussions in general.

Unfortunately, Alaska has been featured prominently in the debate about reform. By recognizing the necessity for change, we can enhance the state's credibility in the appropriations process and in other areas of federal policy.

One of my goals as governor is making Alaska as self-sufficient as possible. Among other things, that means the ability to develop our natural resources in a responsible manner.

However, I am also mindful of the role that the federal government plays in our state. The federal budget, in its various manifestations, is incredibly important to us, and congressional earmarks are one aspect of this relationship.
I regurgitate, you masticate.
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