Thursday, November 25, 2004
Call them federal “earmarks” or call it pork: millions of dollars are coming to the Central Coast courtesy of Sam Farr.
On November 20, the US Senate voted to approve the Omnibus Appropriations Conference Report for Fiscal Year 2005. Congress passed the $388 billion spending bill by a vote of 344 to 51. Senate voted to approve 65 to 30. Separate from the defense spending bill, the Omnibus appropriations bill rolls several spending programs together, covering the budgets of 13 federal departments.
On “Meet the Press” on November 21, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) railed against a legislative system that shuttles through a 1,600-page budget that he says no one reads.
In the process of creating programs to spend taxpayer dollars, members of Congress attach “earmarks” for pet projects, which as McCain pointed out, can include federal money for rock‘n’roll museums and studying cattle genetics. One news report noted that $25,000 was being spent to study mariachi music in Nevada.
According to Rep. Farr’s office, the congressman was able to swing $17 million back to the Monterey area.
From a $1.575 million chunk bound for anti-street gang programs, $375,000 is headed to a gang violence task force, $200,000 for a fingerprinting lab, and $1 million for a county probation program.
The Agricultural Research Service station in Salinas will get $3 million. Studies of shark migration at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories won $2 million, and blue fin tuna tagging programs at the Monterey Bay Aquarium are due $550,000.
Some $2.6 million will be spent to buy land for the Pinnacles National Monument, and the Monterey Bay Sanctuary Scenic Trail will see $400,000 to connect existing stretches of the path. The local bus system, Monterey Salinas Transit (MST) got $1 million to buy new buses.
Although the money does not come directly to the area, almost $2.5 million has been dedicated to the Department of Agriculture’s programs on organic crops. Also, a tourism advisory board within the Department of Commerce got $10 million.
Jessica Schafer, Farr’s press secretary, says that funding for the anti-gang problem almost didn’t happen because it was not pursued until late in the process. The local gang violence problem is one of life and death, however, and Schafer says it took first priority.
President Bush is expected to sign the bill this