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Dale Wetzel, Associated Press, Published November 13 2010

Sen.-elect Hoeven against banning earmarks

BISMARCK – North Dakota Sen.-elect John Hoeven doesn’t support a ban on federal spending earmarks, an issue that will come to a head next week when GOP senators and their newly elected colleagues vote on a proposal to prohibit them.

Hoeven, who is resigning as North Dakota’s governor next month, believes the federal budget process “should be open, transparent and accountable. That is how he is going to approach it,” spokesman Don Larson said. “He is not going to sign on to resolutions that go beyond that.”

Republican senators are voting Tuesday on a proposal by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., for an earmark ban, an idea opposed by the GOP Senate’s leader, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell. Larson said Hoeven would not vote for DeMint’s proposal.

McConnell has promised Hoeven a seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which reviews spending proposals in Congress and is one of the most prominent dispensers of earmarks.

Dustin Gawrylow, director of the North Dakota Taxpayers Association, said Congress should at least provide greater public disclosure of earmarks. Hearings should be held on each request, and lawmakers seeking them should attach their names, he said.

“It’s not the earmarks that are the inherent evil; it’s how they get to be in the bills,” Gawrylow said.

A spending earmark in legislation describes a request that has been added to a bill to benefit a specific lawmaker’s district. They often include money for construction or improvements to public works, such as roads, bridges and airports.

Citizens Against Government Waste, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., ranked North Dakota third in federal pork-barrel spending in its most recent edition of the “Congressional Pig Book,” a compilation of projects that the organization considers wasteful. In the 2010 budget year, North Dakota was given $127 million in pork projects, or $197 per person, the organization said.

Gawrylow suggested a ban on attaching earmark proposals to unrelated bills and lumping all special spending requests into a single measure that would be easier for taxpayers to review.

“Everybody come with your wish list, and we’ll go through the wish list,” Gawrylow said. “Those wish lists will not be attached to other bills because other bills need to be voted on their merits alone.”


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