(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., said today he opposes the earmark process used to fund various projects around the country, advocating instead that state priorities for federal support go through a regular budget review.
“The problem with earmarks, when you look at them, it’s symbolic largely, because it’s not that it’s a huge part of the federal budget,” he said. “But a lot of them appear at the end with absolutely no hearings and they are in bills.
“It’s not that you shouldn’t spend federal money for specific things like that, whether it’s capital improvements or something else, but there should be some level of hearing on them,” Amodei said in an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television show. “And the problem with earmarks is it has become synonymous with little or no hearing whatsoever. So you find out about them after the fact with absolutely no record in support.”
The appropriateness of earmarks generated some controversy in Northern Nevada last week when U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., toured the new air traffic control tower at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. Heller in November 2010 said he would not seek earmarks for Nevada projects.
The $27 million in funding for the tower was provided with earmarks supported by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
Heller acknowledged helping with the funding for the project as well, and the Nevada State Democrat Party criticized the freshman senator for what it said was his flip-flopping on the issue.
“It’s hypocrisy,” said Democratic Party Communications Director Zack Hudson. “It’s another example of how he’ll say anything and do anything just to get elected again.”
Heller, appointed to the Senate in May by Gov. Brian Sandoval, is facing a challenge from Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev. in the 2012 general election.
Amodei was elected Sept. 13 in a special election to take Heller’s seat in the 2nd Congressional District, which covers all of Northern and rural Nevada.
In the interview, Amodei said he believes the tower would have been built without the earmark process because it was desperately needed for safety reasons.
“Because I’ve been in that tower during my first 115 days, and you look across at the old one, where you couldn’t even the ramps down there . . .,” he said. “I am certain that you could have made a very strong public case for this should rise to the top for tower improvements for FAA facilities throughout the nation. I mean, it speaks for itself, if you will.”
Amodei said he has priorities for federal spending in Nevada, but that the projects should go through the budget process and compete for funding.
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