Earmark reform, not elimination

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By Greg Romberg

When President Obama signed a $410 billion budget bill last week, the story might have been that Congress failed to pass its fiscal 2009 budget until almost half the fiscal year was over. Instead, the discussion was about earmarks.

Earmark has become a dirty word. Candidates badmouthed earmarks in the last election, and John McCain said Obama should have vetoed the budget compromise because it contained them.

An earmark is simply a designated project in the federal budget. We’ve benefited from purchase of the Beaver Brook Watershed through an earmark by former senator Wayne Allard and the improvements to the intersection of Highways 73 and 74 by Evergreen Lake because of an earmark by former congressman Dan Schaefer. There is nothing inherently wrong with an earmark. In fact, when done properly, earmarks allow our elected federal officials to ensure that issues and projects that are our highest priorities are funded and completed.

Earmark reform shouldn’t mean earmark elimination. We should guard against public moneys used solely for private gain. We should ensure transparency in how public decisions are made and public funds are spent. As the president and Congress establish new rules for earmarks, they should ensure that moneys that go to a private concern are awarded through public, competitively bid processes and have a demonstrable public benefit. Similarly, any earmark request by a member of Congress should be publicly disclosed.

Small states like Colorado benefit greatly from aggressive representation by our elected officials. Earmarks help make sure we receive the benefit of our federal taxes. While reforms such as suggested above are beneficial, it would be a terrible mistake to take away this tool to serve us from our elected officials.

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People who have made reckless conflict-of-interest charges against Evergreen Park and Recreation District board member Peter Eggers should be ashamed of themselves. While Eggers is a public official and taxpayers are welcome to disagree with him, his actions with respect to the development of Buchanan Park don’t even hint at a conflict. It would be a conflict of interest if Eggers supported development of a community arts center because he would be assured a contract to build the cabinets in the building. Support of building the elements of the park planning process he chaired while a candidate for the board is anything but.

Eggers’ record and campaign promises showed a clear commitment to development of Buchanan Park, including an arts center. His actions since taking office are consistent with his previous record and campaign. It is bad enough that we have to deal with politics of destruction at the state and federal levels. We don’t need it in Evergreen!  

Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates, a government relations and public affairs firm. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie, and three daughters.