Keeping a level playing field for Nebraska

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sen. Ben Nelson

In this age of terrorism, it's doubtful that anyone in Nebraska would call $11 million for new security gates at Offutt Air Force Base, home of our nation's strategic forces, "pork."

It's also doubtful in a state where agriculture is our main economic engine that anyone would think that $60.6 million is wasteful government spending for an agriculture research facility at UNL.

In a state where drought is always a concern and has caused millions of dollars in damage no one would think it's a waste to invest in drought monitoring and management for the entire country at the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln.

Earmarks Fund Worthwhile Projects

Somewhere along the line worthwhile projects like these that are funded by federal dollars sought by elected officials at the request of local and military officials got a bad name. These earmarks were wrongly branded as pork for political reasons and as a result scared some politicians away from requesting them to help their states.

As news stories recently pointed out, I am the lone member of the Nebraskan delegation currently requesting earmarks. My colleagues have backed away, which is a shame because it's helpful when more elected officials request them. Nebraska suffers when it doesn't fight full force for funding it rightfully deserves.

The earmarks I requested this year total about $183 million. You can see a complete list on my website, and very soon will be able to see letters from those who requested my help to get them.

Who Requests Earmarks

I don't just do these on my own. It's part of a process working with officials throughout the state on projects that would not be funded in Nebraska if it weren't for earmarks. I will not abandon by fellow Nebraskans even though earmarks have gotten such a bad name and requesting them may hurt me politically.

To be sure, earmarks have been abused by some in Congress. The infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska comes to mind.

Also, some earmarks I requested didn't turn out exactly as I'd hoped. Projects such as the South Beltway in Lincoln, the I-80 Kearney Interchange and the Niobrara River Roads have received federal funds, but were held up either by state or federal agencies for reasons that are difficult to understand.

Nebraska Needs to Fight for Fair Share

It's hard sometimes to understand that earmarks don't actually increase spending. The annual budget resolution approved by Congress sets overall spending levels of how much will be spent. All earmarks do is direct just 1 percent of that money to specific projects.

If we don't fight to get some of the spending in Nebraska, nameless, faceless bureaucrats in Washington will earmark money their own way to be spent in larger states like California, Texas and New York, which are the top three recipients of federal dollars.

In a perfect world, all funding would be based on merit and merit would be based on comprehensive and objective criteria. That hasn't been the case in the past and unlikely to change in the future. As long as federal agencies and bureaucrats determine the criteria and priorities, elected officials are going to have to remain diligent in making sure that the needs of all Americans, including those that live in less populated rural states like Nebraska, are considered.

That puts the burden on your elected officials to work hard to make sure that some of the tax dollars you send to Washington are returned to your state for worthwhile projects here, which is what I will continue to do.

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  • "In a perfect world, all funding would be based on merit and merit would be based on comprehensive and objective criteria. That hasn't been the case in the past and unlikely to change in the future.

    Well, if you were looking for change in Washington, it doesn't sound like Nelson is your man. He just sits back and accepts the way things are and follows along with the rest of the pack. Nobody said changing the way things are done in Washington would be easy or quick but hopefully we can find someone who is at least willing to try.

    -- Posted by McCook1 on Mon, May 24, 2010, at 5:10 PM
  • What is with this never ending re-election campaign the Gazette is helping Ben run for free on their editorial pages? Where is the other side of these propaganda pieces designed to rehab Bens image?

    I am glad Ben thinks Nebraska deserves some CHinese money since that is where all this deficit he and his cronies are running up. So much for a fiscally conservative Senator. The New banking bill is going to be a disaster just like the healthcare mess he helped create. Ben is just another party hack voting along party lines to get the far left agenda of this administration through before November. Thanks Ben.

    -- Posted by Chaco1 on Tue, May 25, 2010, at 8:06 AM
  • I am sure you will correct me if I am wrong but Ben Nelson isnt the only politican that regurlarly appears in this paper telling us how wonderful they are. And I dont see any differance between any of them. Singling out Mr. Nelson for doing what all politicans do is just petty.

    Perhaps using your energy to make change happen instead of griping would be a better use of your time.


    -- Posted by kaygee on Tue, May 25, 2010, at 12:41 PM
  • But I disagree, making the public informed is well worth the energy! Ben was just one of 60 that voted for that great health care bill so that makes him part of the problem. Should members from each party be voted out? Heck ya, but I'm perfectly happy with Ben leading the way!

    -- Posted by remington81 on Tue, May 25, 2010, at 1:19 PM
  • karen you are correct Ben is not the only one who writes in the gazette. But he is certainly the one we see and hear from the most. I for one am tired of ol ben and his spin on the poor choices he is making along party lines. Too bad he isn't up for re-election till 2012.

    As to using my energy you have no idea what I do with my time and energy. I can gripe if I want any time I want since Ben is suposed to be my representative in the Senate and has ignored the will of his constituents to be a party hack. How is thet Hope and Change working out for you now?

    -- Posted by Chaco1 on Wed, May 26, 2010, at 7:53 AM
  • Remmington81

    Any one who pays even the sightest attention to the news knows that Mr Nelson commited political suicide so continuing to beat this dead horse is pointless. It appears to me that you are griping just for the sake of griping. Perhaps seeking out a replacement for him would be a better way to use your time. I would be far more interested in your comments if you could just move on!


    This negativity dosnt help any one....especally you! And I create my own hope and change so it works out quite well for me....I dont let politcal hacks dictate my future. And I hope you do the same.

    And just for the record I hate ALL politicans think ALL of them should be taken out to the wood shed once a year just to remind them who they work for!!!

    Hope that clears things up for you!



    -- Posted by kaygee on Wed, May 26, 2010, at 9:48 AM
  • I don't waste my time hating Karen it takes up too much energy. But I can be as negative as I want, should I try to put a happy face on a Senator that went against the will of his constituents?

    Bottom line if BEn wants to come here and write these spin re-election campaign piesec I will tear them apart and voice my opinion period. If you don't care for it why are you reading and commenting on it?

    -- Posted by Chaco1 on Thu, May 27, 2010, at 8:42 AM
  • WELL PARDON THE HECK OUT OF ME!!!! I just get tired of reading the same thing over and over. I find most of your commentary here insightful and I agree with most of what you say but.....I heard you the first 87 times you said you dont like Ben. Do you really need to continue???? Its getting old. At least find another way to say it!! Be creative:^)!



    -- Posted by kaygee on Thu, May 27, 2010, at 9:06 AM
  • Valmont, CSI, Work Camp, Hertiage Square, Keystone, EAS funding, College Activity Center, National Guard/Reserve building, hospital, Keystone. Maybe these would have been done without Ben but probably not. Did he vote against my wishes on health care? Yes. Has he been good for SW Nebr.? Yes. Did he vote more with Bush than anyother Democrat Senator? Yes. Would SW Nebraska be better off with a replacement? Probably not.

    -- Posted by dennis on Thu, May 27, 2010, at 3:23 PM
  • Yes, we'll be better off with a Senator voting on financial reform when he doesn't even know what an ATM fee is. The funny part is that he probably just didn't know what ATM meant and thought it was some little known financial acronym.

    -- Posted by McCook1 on Thu, May 27, 2010, at 5:49 PM
  • Take that 1 percent for earmarks and put it into a merit based system for funding. Wow, not exactly impossible but that would require taking on the traditional system in Washington.

    -- Posted by McCook1 on Thu, May 27, 2010, at 5:51 PM
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