In response to your editorial Marking, which documents my annual meeting with the City Council to discuss their federal priorities; I am in full agreement with the paper that passing the buck through unfunded mandates is bad public policy. The Times may be interested to know that I was co-author of the Unfunded Mandate Reform Act, which became law in 1995 requiring Congress to identify the financial impact on states and localities of legislation enacted by Congress.
I voted in favor for No Child Left Behind, along with Senator Kennedy, Rep. George Miller and almost every Democratic member of Congress because the President promised to fully fund the new law, taking the burden off the localities. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. The Presidents desire to cut taxes for the wealthy and occupy Iraq for the past four years has taken precedence over the funding needs of our children, leaving states and local governments to foot the tab.
But lets set aside the unfair burden NCLB has placed on local schools for a moment and take a look at the earmarking of federal dollars. Every dollar allocated by the federal government is earmarked; its just a question of whos doing the earmarking. I recall vividly when, as a budget director for the U.S. Department of Health under the Nixon Administration, we were constantly forced to direct federal dollars based more on politics than policy.
Not much has changed in the past 30 years. One need only look at how the Bush Administration doled out Homeland Security funds in 2006. Omaha, Neb., Louisville, Ky., and other smaller localities across the country saw their anti-terror funds surge, despite being a low target for terrorism. In the process, Ground Zero on September 11th the National Capital Region and NYC was shortchanged to the tune of $120 million.
In my role representing Alexandria in the Congress, it is my obligation and distinct privilege to work with the city to try and meet their unmet needs. Over the years I have earmarked a number of projects through the appropriations process that may not otherwise have been funded, including the $45 million earmarked for Northern Virginias first responders (which included $11 million for Alexandria fire, rescue and police in the wake of 9/11).
As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, I make no apologies for pursuing federal funding through the earmark process to better the communities and constituents I serve.
Jim Moran is Democratic Congressman from the 8th District.