Canton Repository

January 21, 2004

Spending bill in Senate includes millions for Stark County

Copley Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON — A mammoth spending bill the Senate is considering includes almost $15 million in projects benefiting Stark County and Canton.

U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, put most of the projects into the $820 billion legislation, which the House approved Dec. 8.

Regula, the vice chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, has used his clout to steer large shares of federal spending to his district since he became chairman of a key appropriations subcommittee in 2001.

The largest earmark for the area is $3 million to complete the development of a radio system that will connect all police departments in Stark County. That grant goes to the Stark County sheriff, who received $5 million last year to begin the project. Regula secured the money after a Massillon police officer was fatally shot in 2002.

The bill provides $20,000 for the Massillon Police Department to pay for enhanced security and new technology to combat gang- and drug-related activities.

The funds include $2.3 million to help the city of Canton acquire land for a new federal building. Regula increased the amount from the $2.1 million that was included in an earlier spending proposal.

Earmarks that will benefit Stark County include another $1 million to build a YMCA between Massillon and Navarre in western Stark County. Regula provided an initial $2 million for the project last year. The facility also will serve Holmes, Wayne and Tuscarawas counties.

Another $1 million would finance improvements to a section of the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail in Massillon. The funds would pay for the construction of a safe route across a commercial rail crossing on the city’s south side, congressional staff said.

Several local transportation projects are funded in the legislation.

There’s $1 million for improvements to the Lauby Road exit off Interstate 77 to accommodate increased traffic flow to Akron-Canton Regional Airport in Green.

Another $500,000 is reserved to develop access to the former Georgia Pacific plant in Canton from Mahoning Road NE.

Canton-based recipients include Malone College, receiving $1 million to build a facility to house a school of nursing. Mercy Medical Center would get $1 million to pay for construction of and equipment for a cardiac catheterization lab.

The Stark County Educational Service Center, which serves public schools, would receive $500,000 to develop a system for improving math and science skills. Canton City Schools would get $250,000 to improve math performance in middle schools.

The bill includes $500,000 for Stark State College of Technology in support of fuel-cell research, and $235,000 to finance the purchase of medical equipment and training.

Walsh University would receive $500,000 to build a facility using sophisticated computer technology to analyze biological data, and another $500,000 to expand a community health clinic for underserved populations.

Some $400,000 would go to the Canton Symphony Orchestra to develop a schools-based orchestra education program in Stark, Wayne, Ashland and Medina counties.

The Domestic Violence Project, a spouse and child-abuse shelter in Canton, is due $390,000 to renovate a facility the shelter acquired.

Jewish Community Centers of Northeastern Ohio in Canton would receive $500,000 to develop human services programs for seniors, children and families.

Heartbeats to the City in Canton would receive $28,000 to offer a 12-week summer work program for urban youth.

There’s also $64,000 for the Hyattsville, Md.-based Children’s Rights Council, which would use the money to provide counseling to parents to keep families together in Stark County.

Earmarks, which critics call pork, have multiplied in recent years.

Critics contend it is wasteful and unfair for lawmakers to direct spending to their districts or states when federal agencies might determine that tax dollars are better spent elsewhere.

Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group, has calculated that earmarks account for $10.7 billion in spending out of $328.1 billion in discretionary funds in the legislation.

The group said 293 of the earmarks in the bill, totaling $235.8 million, are reserved for projects in Ohio.

Regula and others who defend the practice say lawmakers are as qualified as bureaucrats to determine where money should be spent.

Almost two-thirds of Regula’s constituents live in Stark County.

The Senate returned from recess Tuesday to begin debating the spending bill, which would fund a wide range of government programs through the next eight months.

Democrats blocked the Senate from finishing the bill. The vote to halt delaying tactics against the wide-ranging package was 48-45, 12 votes short of the 60 needed.

Opponents are upset that the legislation would delay for two years country-of-origin labels on foods, allow an administration move to reduce the number of white-collar workers eligible for overtime pay and ease limits on the number of television stations a company can own.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.