Diving for dollars

There’s been plenty of coverage of pork spending in the last few days of the year. President Bush has criticized the omnibus appropriations bill because it contains money for a prison museum and a Portuguese-as-a-second-language program, among hundreds of other programs considered wasteful.

Rep. John Kline, in Minnesota’s 2nd District, has gotten religion on the issue this year, promising not to pursue any “earmarks” — pork — in this budget cycle.

Among the listings for Minnesota in labor and human services appropriations, according to Earmarkwatch.org:

  • $200,000 for Bemidji State University for a nurse training program (Rep. Peterson)
  • $15,000 for Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota for facilities and equipment. (Rep. Ellison)
  • $100,000 for Children’s Hospitals and Clinics for facilities and equipment for the Mobile Pediatric Health Simulation Center. (Reps. Walz and Bachmann)
  • $400,000 for Hormel Foundation for facilities and equipment for cancer research center. (Rep. Walz)
  • $250,000 for Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency, Virginia MN., for family-to-family community based mentoring program to assist low-income families. (Rep. Oberstar)
  • $300,000 for MnSCU, for a statewide veterans re-entry education program. (Rep. Walz)
  • $500,000 for Twin Cities Public Television Minnesota Digital Public Media Archive. (Rep. McCollum)

    A news release from Sen. Norm Coleman lists several projects:

  • $1.2 million for the National Child Protection Training Center at Winona State University
  • $430,050 for Bolder Options, a “non-profit agency in Minnesota that has improved the lives of more than 350 youth in the last five years.”
  • $223,250 to replace St. Paul’s warning sirens
  • $23,500 for a meth education program in Willmar

    Earmarkwatch.org uses a Google map to chart some of the defense-related projects. There are two in the Twin Cities area. A Hudson firm gets $2 million for self-sealing plastic enclosures for batteries. Phygen, in Minneapolis, gets $3 million for “high endurance coatings.”

    At Fedspending.org, Minnesota is ranked 26th, with $3.9 billion in federal contracts. Alliant Tech Systems is the #1 recipient.

    So here’s the question: Which of these is pork? Is there good pork? If so, how should a system of doling out the dough be changed to preserve it while weeding out the bridges to nowhere?

    Rep. Tim Walz and Rep. Keith Ellison addressed these questions on MPR’s Midday today (best part is about 37 minutes in).

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