New Congress Begins With Progress on Earmarks

| Tue Jan. 6, 2009 4:38 PM EST

Now we're talking:

The chairmen of the House and Senate Appropriations committees on Tuesday jointly vowed to slice the level of earmarks while providing unprecedented disclosure of Member requests.
House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) and Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) said that starting with the fiscal 2010 appropriations bills, when Members make their earmark requests, they will be required to post the requests on their Web sites explaining the purpose of the earmark and why it is a valuable use of taxpayer funds....

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The chairmen agreed to cut the overall level of earmarks to 50 percent of the 2006 level for nonproject-based accounts. According to the chairmen, the fiscal 2008 spending bills were already cut 43 percent from the 2006 level, so this means a slight additional reduction.

Earmarks would be held below 1 percent of discretionary spending in future years, they said. That amounts to about $10 billion a year.

Bill Allison at the Sunlight Foundation makes the right point:

This is okay as far as it goes, and in improvement (currently earmark requests don't have to be disclosed at all), but why these requests can't be centralized in a searchable, sortable, downloadable database rather than spread across 535 member sites is a bit of a mystery.

The good government community has to get lawmakers to accept transparency and technology. It's a tall order.

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