Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Earmarks, lots and lots of earmarks

1,512 to be exact. That is how many amendments to the fiscal year 2009 budget were filed by members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Nearly all of them are proposed increases to the budget for local projects.

Of the two legislators representing the town of Sterling, only Democrat Harold Naughton filed amendments; he filed 15 (see amendments 710-724). Republican Lewis Evangelidis did not file any amendments to the FY09 budget (or at least he isn't the primary sponsor of any amendments. A Google search only pulled up one amendment to which he is a co-sponsor. I wonder if anyone in the local press will ask him why he decided to stand on the sidelines this year).

Two of Naughton's earmarks would have a direct effect in Sterling. The biggest of the two could go a long way in settling the Wekepeke question. Amendment 716:
Mr. Naughton of Clinton moves to amend the bill in Section 2, item 2810-0700, by adding at the end thereof the following: “provided further that not less than $1,000,000 be provided for the repair of dams located at the Wekepeke Reservoir in the town of Sterling.”
Now, Naughton filed essentially the same amendment last year and it was not included in the final budget. I wonder if it has any chance at all of being included this year's budget, considering the deteriorating economic climate. But if it were to make the final budget it would remove a significant part of Clinton's incentive to develop the Wekepeke. Current estimates suggest that it will cost Clinton between $1 million and $1.5 million to meet their legal obligation to shore up the dams. If most or all of that money came from the state, Clinton wouldn't need to sell the water from the Wekepeke in order to fund repairs.

The other earmark would provide a grant for a community park in Sterling. Amendment 724:
Mr. Naughton of Clinton moves that bill be amended in item 2000 – 0100 by adding at the end thereof the following "Provided further that not less than $50,000 shall be expended for the expansion of Muddy Pond Park in the town of Sterling for the purpose of open space..."
Work on the project has already begun, but organizers are still raising money in an effort to secure the $250,000 estimated. A state grant of $50,000 would go a long way to helping Sterling realize it's goal.

If you feel strongly that either of these two amendments (or any of the other 1,150 amendments) should be included in the final budget, contact your state representative or the members of the Ways and Means Committee. Both Naughton and Evangelidis are members of the Ways and Means, so if you live in Sterling registering your opinion with your rep will also get your voice heard in the Ways and Means.

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