Southern Illinois congressmen push for budget ‘earmarks’
CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) — Congressmen from southern Illinois want the return of so-called earmarks that allow local representatives designate federal funds for local projects.
U.S. Reps. Mike Bost and John Shimkus are among the Republican members of Congress asking to lift the moratorium on earmarks, The Southern Illinoisan (http://bit.ly/2iR8nPR ) reported.
They were scrapped about five years ago in the face of corruption and abuse accusations.
“All appropriations begin in the House per the constitution,” Shimkus said. “So, we’ve turned over our power of the purse to the executive branch, who can then make their own decisions based upon their political whims.”
Administrative funding decisions are intended to remove politics from the equation through need-based formulas, but Shimkus argued that does not always happen and that House and Senate members should have a say in prioritization of some projects in their districts.
“We have a couple of members in jail because of it,” he said, acknowledging that congressional earmarks did get abused. “So not only was it abused, we had members who broke the law and did time . Now, we are trying to find a way to reclaim our constitutional authority and ensure the public trust through transparency.”
Bost said by bringing earmarks back, certain “sensible” guidelines would be implemented to protect the process from corruption.
Shimkus said he would be in favor of limitation on earmarks, where the process only could be used to direct federal dollars to other government agencies and public infrastructure projects, not to businesses or individuals.
John Jackson, a visiting professor at the Southern Illinois University’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, said the region wouldn’t be what it is today without earmarks.
For decades until the late 1980s, southern Illinois earned a generous share of federal earmarks that helped fund projects such as its interstate highway system, post offices and hospitals.
Information from: Southern Illinoisan, http://www.southernillinoisan.com