GOP leader calls for end to earmarks, wants them for her district

Haddaway-Riccio has sought $1.4 million for Eastern Shore projects

February 04, 2011|By Annie Linskey, The Baltimore Sun

A House Republican leader who is pushing to end the state's $15 million earmark program has herself introduced or sponsored bills this year that would use the fund to send $1.4 million to projects in her district.

House Minority Whip Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, who called for an end to the use of so-called bond bills this week during the Republican response to Gov. Martin O'Malley's state of the state address, says she introduced her legislation before she saw his budget proposal and learned how dire the state's fiscal situation is.

"I think all of us would love to have projects funded," the Eastern Shore Republican said. "It is not a responsible thing to do given the capital budget situation."

She said that she's doubtful any of the projects will be funded, and does not plan to introduce or lend her name to any more bills.

In her televised response to the O'Malley's address on Tuesday, Haddaway-Riccio said Republican lawmakers believe local projects should not be funded "in light of the economic times we face." She has also signed a letter asking House Speaker Micheal E. Busch to end the program for the current year.

She introduced two bond bills and co-sponsored another before O'Malley unveiled his budget proposal. But she co-sponsored two more after O'Malley's announcement.

Haddaway-Riccio said she had committed to those bills before seeing the budget earlier, and had no control over when they were put in the hopper.

House Minority Leader Anthony O'Donnell said it would be unfair to her district if she did not fight for deserving projects, and said that view is not inconsistent with a broader push to end the program.

Fiscal conservatives have long criticized bond bills, which they view as pork-barrel spending intended purely to entice wavering lawmakers into supporting the governor's budget. The House and Senate split the $15 million allotment in half, and then divvy out the funds to lawmakers.

Christopher B. Summers, the president of the conservative Maryland Public Policy Institute, said it is "absurd" that any Republican would introduce a bond bill. He doubted Haddaway-Riccio's contention that she didn't grasp the size of the state's fiscal problems.

"You've been in the legislature for how long?" he asked. "The state is 1.6 billion in the hole."

But, in a broader sense, he blames the problem on the Democrats who dominate the General Assembly, who, he believes, should end the practice.

Haddaway-Ricco, who represents Caroline, Dorchester, Wicomico and Talbot counties, is asking the state to borrow $250,000 for a bulkhead replacement at the Chesapeake Maritime Museum and $250,000 for a hospice.

She's also co-sponsoring a bill to borrow $500,000 for a senior housing center in Cambridge; $75,000 for an atrium entrance at the Dorchester Center for the Arts, and another bill to borrow $300,000 for the construction of a replica of the Choptank River Lighthouse.

annie.linskey@baltsun.com

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