$113 million in Md. earmarks OK'd

December 20, 2009|By Paul West | paul.west@baltsun.com

Congress gave final approval Saturday to a year-end spending measure that will provide $636.3 billion to keep the Pentagon operating, pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and deliver more than $113 million for earmarked projects by Maryland lawmakers.

The legislation, which mainly funds the Defense Department until Sept. 30, also includes new Maryland transportation construction money related to the realignment of military facilities. A total of about $127 million, mainly for intersection projects at the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, could be financed out of a $300 million pool established for Washington-area projects.

All 10 members of the Maryland congressional delegation voted in favor of the defense measure, which is expected to be signed into law by President Barack Obama.

A total of 47 earmarked spending projects by Maryland congressmen and senators, worth a total of $113.7 million, were disclosed in a report accompanying the legislation. That represents a slight trim by House and Senate Appropriations conferees in the $121.6 million in Maryland earmarks contained in earlier versions of the measure.

Not all of the money will be spent in the state. The largest earmark, for $8 million, which Rep. C. A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger of Baltimore County requested along with lawmakers from other states, will go to a Cray Inc. supercomputer project in Tennessee.

Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a member of the Senate appropriations panel, remained the state's champion earmarker, with a total of $39.98 million for 15 projects, down slightly from $42.1 million for the same requests in the Senate version of the bill. House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer obtained $32.1 million, much of it for installations in his Southern Maryland district. Ruppersberger, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, claimed credit for $27.4 million.

Among the projects funded: $2.4 million for new operating rooms at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, requested by Ruppersberger and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Baltimore, and $1.6 million for spinal-cord restoration therapy research by the Kennedy-Krieger Institute in Baltimore, requested by Hoyer, Cummings, Ruppersberger and Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, all Democrats.

Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes of Baltimore obtained $1.6 million for Advanced Technology and Research Corp., a Columbia engineering company, for a project to launch and land unmanned aerial systems on ships.

Nationally, a total of 1,720 earmarks worth $4.2 billion were disclosed in the measure, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, an outside watchdog group. That represents a 14 percent decline from last year in earmarked spending, the group said.

Obama and others have criticized earmarks as wasteful and, at times, corrupt, particularly those directed to private companies that often show their gratitude through campaign donations. However, Obama has not moved to stop earmarking.

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