Report: Without Earmarks, Small/Rural Communities Lose Out

March 3, 2011 | By Guest Contributor | 1 comment

(This guest post was authored by David Young, founder and CEO of Young and Associates/Solutions for Local Governments. Mr. Young is a former county commissioner for Buncombe County, N.C., where he served for 16 years. He is the former president of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners and was most recently the chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party.) Smaller cities and counties as well as rural communities across America are likely going to suffer the most consequences now that earmarks are on hold and Congress is slashing the budget. A provocative report recently authored by The Ferguson Group, a DC consulting/lobbying firm, paints a picture of what may happen now that that Congress has turned over its spending authority to the federal agencies.

By the looks of it, federal dollars that do eventually trickle down to cities and towns for projects like wastewater treatment or transit projects will likely go to only a few, select communities, instead of the hundreds of communities that received funding in years past.

This is based on a look at what happened in 2007 when Congress stopped earmarking and ceded all spending power to the agencies. For example, the COPS Technology Program, a federal grant program that helps local police agencies clean up methamphetamine labs, pursue child sexual predators or hire law enforcement officers, funded 424 projects to local agencies throughout the country in 2006 through a combination of earmarking and competitive grants. Then in 2007, a year when Congress stopped earmarking for a year, only 37 local law enforcement agencies received crime-fighting funds. A look at the COPS website shows that – with few exceptions – big cities and state organizations benefited most.

This may be a taste of things to come while earmarks are in the wings unless Congress and the federal agencies can make “competitive” grants more competitive.

How does this analysis resonate with you?  Do you agree with the common sentiment that earmarks are bad, bad, bad — even if small and rural communities are likely to lose out in the deal?  If you’re in a small or rural community, are you confident that you have the capacity to compete with the big dogs for competitive funding?


One Comment

  1. redwest
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    You mean a DC lobbying firm supports earmarks? I’d never have guessed. If there’s something broken in the competitive grant process, and I’m the first to agree that’s the case, then you resolve the problem. But in classic inept DC fashion, the Feds introduce one broken system, and quickly usher in another broken and wildly corrupt system to resolve the first. Repeat the insanity again and again over the span of a few generations and you have the US Government, circa 2011.

    The day a parasitic lobbying firm like The Ferguson Group begins offering their services on a pro bono basis, then I’ll consider the “our goal is to resolve the injustice” claims. Until then, they’re simply advancing the interests of those communities who can afford to pay them for their services over the interests of those who can’t.

    Perhaps Congress should take a step back and diagnose the actual disease rather than throwing useless “cures” at the myriad of symptoms. If they did, they’d see that the problem is in fact their process of draining the revenues from the state and local level under the “one size fits all / we know best” policy, and then attempting to effectively redistribute those funds where they’re “needed”. If most of these programs were completely eliminated and states and local communities were permitted to assess their needs and allocate their own funding accordingly, perhaps they’d see a more effective use of the funding. But then, if the Federal government restricted their activities to those responsibilities they’re best suited (and constitutionally permitted) to manage, what ever would become of folks like our lobbyist friends at The Ferguson Group. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

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