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Commentary: Ban on Earmarks Not Necessarily Good

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, October 28, 2011

There's no doubt Congress needs to crack down on pork barrel spending. In the past, both parties abused a process, known as "earmarks," to quietly get the federal government to spend on pet projects that weren't in the national interest.

But sometimes the reaction to a problem can be worse than the problem itself. And that's what's happening in Washington. Republicans in the House have enacted a ban on earmarks that is so broad it is blocking funding for projects needed to protect the public, including flood control here in California and in other states.

North of Sacramento, local and state flood agencies have dedicated $370 million dollars towards upgrading levees in the Natomas basin. All along, they assumed the federal government would share in the costs. But the House is dragging its feet, because of the ban on earmarks.

The consequences are enormous. If Congress doesn't authorize the Natomas levee work, construction will grind to a halt. 100,000 people will remain at risk of a flood. And if a disaster were to occur, federal taxpayers could be on the hook for billions of dollars in damages.

The House needs to change its rules on earmarks. If it doesn't, a lot of people could be under water.

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