Fact-Checking the "PRT Boondoggle" Blog
A project of the PRT NewsCenter

Monday, February 08, 2010

Just a bill

Earmarks vs. Pork (Ken Avidor goes to school)

Earmarks are products of the legislative process. They are part of the overall appropriations process, but unlike a tax exemption or bond there is no requirement for an earmark to pay for it itself.

The name earmark comes from the legislature specially designating money for a specific project -- like turning down the corner of a page in a book -- as opposed to an executive branch agency funding a project through the budgetmaking process.

A legislator adds an earmark to a spending bill, and it becomes one of the legislative body's spending priorities. This is not horsetrading -- a quid pro quo in which lawmakers agree to vote for each others' measures. That is termed 'logrolling.'

Appropriation is another way earmarks differ from grants, which are awarded to projects based on objective evaluative criteria. This lack of objectivity (and publicity by good-government and anti-government activists alike) has caused earmarks to be conflated with 'pork,' which traditionally is understood to mean spending intended to buy the support or votes of a group of constituents.

Politics can affect how an earmark gets approved. But one person's earmark is another's wasteful spending.

In contrast, a grant program is set up through a legislative process, but legislation only establishes the top level goals and objectives. The recipients are chosen by an executive branch agency through an open call for applications; grants are awarded to projects that are judged, based on the objective criteria, the best able to achieve the goals and objectives.

The current Winona 'PRT Lab' funding request is to a grant program.

Richard Shelby's $35 billion Northrop-Grumman earmark
(1,400 times the size of the possible 'PRT Lab' grant for Winona)

Federal spending in Minnesota
LESS THAN federal taxes paid

No comments: