Monday, June 11, 2001

Outlays survive Taft's scrutiny

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — When the chief of Monday Creek Fire Department in rural southeastern Ohio told Rep. Larry Householder last year that he needed money for a new firetruck, he never expected to see it.

        But thanks to Mr. Householder, now the powerful speaker of the 99-member Ohio House, the all-volunteer department in Mr. Householder's district has $200,000 for a new pumper engine.

        Mr. Householder, a Glenford Republican, earmarked the money for the township, population 671, out of the state's $45 billion budget.

        Although Gov. Bob Taft expressed concern at the large number of earmarks in the budget, the truck was one of dozens of spending projects for Republican lawmakers' districts that survived Mr. Taft's 49 budget vetoes Wednesday.

        House and Senate Democrats, who refused to support the budget, did not receive any earmarks for their districts.

        “Two years ago on the budget bill, there were significant Democrat votes for this bill, and there were some Democrat earmarks in that bill,” said Sen. President Richard Finan, R-Evendale. “There's no Democrat earmarks in this bill. I won't say why that happened.”

        Mr. Taft, a Republican, blamed the high number of earmarks on the tight budget, which limited departments' spending.

        “There were a lot of earmarks and we left as many of them go as we could but in certain cases we felt it just couldn't be done,” he said.

        “I was 100 percent surprised when I read in the paper the other night that it was in the budget,” Monday Creek Fire Chief Paul Owings said. “Then they started cutting and I figured we lost it, because we're nobody.”

        Mr. Taft's vetoes eliminated some Householder earmarks, which included $250,000 for repairing dilapidated horse barns on the Perry County fairgrounds. That would have consumed half of the state's budget for youth fairs, which Mr. Taft said was not in the public interest.

        But other Householder earmarks survived, including $225,000 for a new drinking water treatment system in northern Perry County and $200,000 for a dam rehabilitation project in the Rush Creek watershed.

        Mr. Householder said he would have been happy with no earmarks, but started carving out spending items after several Senate lawmakers inserted earmarks into the budget.

        “I made the suggestion that we can just take all the earmarks out or we can try to get this thing equaled up, and they preferred to have it equaled up,” he said. “So that's what we did.”

        State agencies aren't fond of earmarks because they strip the departments' ability to spend the money as they see fit.

        “When they direct things to specific areas, it limits our ability to direct need and serve need across the state,” said Steve Proctor, a spokesman for the Department of Aging.

        Sen. Eric Fingerhut, a Cleveland Democrat, criticized the high number of earmarks in the budget that Republicans passed. “We cut $1 million from MRDD and we passed this,” he said.

        Republican lawmakers cut $1.05 million from the Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities in the final hours of the budget process.


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