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The Advocate (South Louisiana) - Editorial: The Cost of High Earmarks

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Editorial: The Cost of High Earmarks

The Advocate (South Louisiana)

The state of Louisiana is swimming in dough. Why should the U.S. taxpayer give the state more money — any more money?

This attitude in Washington is a clear warning to the Legislature that Louisiana must carefully — extremely carefully — work to avoid waste in this year's budget.

At a contentious federal hearing on the shortfall in the Road Home housing program, one U.S. senator laid it on the line for every official in Louisiana to hear.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said Louisiana should use its budget surplus for the program. The surplus is $2 billion to $3 billion, depending on how its counted.

"If the surplus is there, it should be helping the people of Louisiana," Coburn said.

We differ with the senator's comments in the sense that the Road Home program is repairing damage from the failure of the federal government's levees in the greater New Orleans area. There are other good arguments the state can deploy to justify federal aid to fulfill President Bush's promise of getting the afflicted from hurricanes Katrina and Rita back into their homes.

But Coburn's question underlines how difficult it will be — much more difficult than two years ago — to gain future federal aid for legitimate hurricane recovery purposes.

The new state budget bill passed out of the House Appropriations Committee includes pages and pages of amendments adding small special-interest appropriations to the bill. At $25 million and counting, this is not huge money, nor are all these wasteful. But by throwing in these political earmarks for particular legislators, the House is giving Coburn and those thinking along similar lines every reason to question the seriousness of the state of Louisiana.

Louisiana simply cannot afford this business-as-usual attitude in the State Capitol. In terms of our legitimate needs for federal aid, it is penny-wise and billions-foolish.

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