Thursday, April 19, 2007


Nearly 1500 amendments amounting to over $500 million in spending have been submitted to the House budget, and you can sift through them all starting here. As is the case with all earmarks, they are certainly all wasteful except for the ones that directly affect you. In my case, that would be money allocated for the bike path that would pass nearby the .08 Acre homestead. Everything else is just so many gazebos. Of course, I'm exaggerating, but it's important to remember during this debate that "waste" is almost always in the eye of the beholder.

Governor Deval Patrick tried to eliminate many of these earmarks in his spending plan, but they are back like zombies in the House version of the budget. Patrick's secretary of administration and finance, Leslie Kirwan, has said that each earmark will be considered individually and the Governor has pointed out that he still has line-item veto power. I had originally thought that Patrick might be able to sustain some of those vetoes, given that he has many more allies in the legislature than the previous governor. I'm not so sure now, given that some of his strongest supporters on the campaign trail, the Globe article quotes extensively from Rep. Mike Festa (D-Melrose), are not willing to give up their earmarks. If he can't count on some of his earliest backers, he's going to have a lot of trouble finding enough votes to sustain a veto. Perhaps his best course of action would be to work closely with House leadership to limit the number of earmarks that make it into the House version of the budget.

On a related note, the Boston Globe had an interesting article a few days ago detailing how federal agencies were at a loss to figure out how to spend their budgets without Congressional earmarks for guidance. It's been so long since they've had any discretion that it appears that the agencies just let their internal processes for awarding contracts and grants has atrophied.