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El Dorado County seeks fed’s funds

Earmarks sought from transportation bill
By: Jon Brines, Telegraph Correspondent
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By Jon Brines Telegraph Correspondent A new bill circulating through Congress will include funding priorities for construction projects across El Dorado, Placer and Sacramento Counties including Folsom Lake Crossing and interchanges on Highway 50 and Interstate 80. The Surface Transportation Authorization of 2009 provides for the funding of federal transportation projects across the nation. Most of the funds are allocated through block grants but money has been set aside for earmarks as well, according to congressional staffers. El Dorado Hills resident and registered independent Alan Day said the process of letting Congressmen select individual projects should be eliminated in favor of local control. “Congressmen try to bring home the bacon,” Day said. “Both parties get carried away with earmarks. Let’s have a coherent plan and not do patchwork earmarks. That’s not a good way to spend our tax dollars.” California’s 3rd District Rep. Dan Lungren, who represents Folsom, has pledged more than $65 million for 15 projects including $4.5 million for phase two of the Folsom Lake Crossing, $5 million for the Oak Avenue Parkway at Highway 50 and $10 million for Hazel Avenue improvements, according to his web site. For a complete list go to http://lungren.house.gov and look under constituent services. Peter Tateishi, a spokesperson for Rep. Lungren, said the bill is responsible because it is funded out of the highway trust fund. He said local drivers pay into the fund every time they fill up their cars. They get that federal money back in the form of infrastructure and transportation improvements, he said. “The only way to help our district fight for the money that we put in through the gas tax is to submit for earmarks,” said Tateishi. Taxpayers for Commonsense, a DC-based national non-partisan budget watchdog group, has come out against the earmarks in the bill. In the transportation bill of 2005, the infamous earmark for the “bridge to nowhere” was decried nationwide as the epitome of government waste. “We need to not be making spending decisions on the basis of political muscle,” said Steve Ellis, the vice president of Taxpayers for Commonsense. “We should be moving toward a system we’re we allocate funding through a competitive merit-based award process — a formula process.” California’s 4th District Rep. Tom McClintock, who represents Placer and El Dorado Counties, signed a “no earmark pledge” with Citizens Against Government Waste. “This is a normal transportation appropriation,” said McClintock about the new bill. “I think earmarks are corrupting the congress and circumventing our normal appropriations process.” McClintock has recommend four projects for the bill totaling $34 million including $5 million for construction on Western Placerville Interchanges, $4 million for the Lincoln Bypass on Highway 65 and $2.5 million for expansion of the Eureka Road interchange on Interstate 80 in Roseville. For a complete list go to http://mcclintock.house.gov. Kathryn Mathews, the executive director of the El Dorado Transportation Commission, admits she’s been confused by McClintock’s stance on earmarks. “We’ve been told McClintock would not entertain any project requests period,” said Mathews. “Then two days before the requests were due to be submitted we got a call saying, ‘go ahead and submit if you want.’” Mathews hopes if the bill becomes law they’ll get their request for $5 million for the Western Placerville Interchanges on Highway 50. In March, they received an earmark of $570,000 originally requested by McClintock’s predecessor, former Rep. John Doolittle. David Williams, of Citizens Against Government Waste, said McClintock has maintained his pledge against earmarks so far but the jury is still out on the new bill. “The projects in this bill could still make our pork book this year,” Williams said.