February 4, 2007
Dem 'earmark' ban halts Regula projects
By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service
WASHINGTON Mercy Medical Center in Canton was counting on
$700,000 in federal funds secured by U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula to
renovate and expand its emergency department.
It won’t be getting the money.
Nor will more than two dozen other area hospitals, universities
and other organizations receive the hundreds of thousands or
millions of dollars in federal largesse that Regula, R-Bethlehem
Township, told them was on the way.
In response to congressional scandals involving earmarking
abuses, the now-Democrat-led House last week passed a $464
billion, 2007 catchall spending measure that does not contain
any earmarked spending previously approved for local projects,
according to Democratic leaders. The Senate plans to take up the
measure this week.
Earmarks are instructions that lawmakers place in bills to
allocate federal money to local projects or to benefit political
supporters. Their use has increased dramatically in recent
The practice, usually hidden from public view, became an issue
in the fall campaigns after ex-Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif.,
was convicted of taking more than $2.4 million in bribes in
return for steering defense earmarks to contractor friends.
Ex-Rep. Bob Ney, R-Heath, is not accused of trading bribes for
earmarks. But he is going to prison after pleading guilty to
accepting gifts from convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and others
in exchange for taking official actions on behalf of their
If Republican congressional leaders had succeeded in passing all
11 of their spending bills last year, there almost certainly
would have been billions of dollars in local projects contained
Instead, Congress managed to pass just two, leaving the other
nine dangling. Democrats won control of Congress in November,
partly on the strength of the case they made against Republican
mismanagement and corruption. One of the first orders of
business was to pass the remaining spending legislation.
The new Democratic heads of the congressional appropriations
committees — Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin and Sen. Robert Byrd
of West Virginia — agreed to impose a moratorium on earmarks
this year with the expectation of revisiting the issue when they
begin crafting next year’s budget.
That meant all the projects that Regula, a once-powerful GOP
appropriations chief, had written into spending bills passed by
the Appropriations Committee but never cleared by the full
Congress fell by the wayside.
LOSS HITS ORGANIZATIONS
“We’re disappointed,” said Lynne Dragomier, a vice president of
marketing and public relations at Mercy.
The hospital had sought a $700,000 earmark from Regula to help
pay for a $12 million renovation and expansion of its emergency
Like some others who will not be receiving earmarks after all,
Dragomier said the lost funding is only a small part of the
total price tag and won’t stop the project.
“It’s an important project for Mercy,” she said. “This will mean
that Mercy needs to find other resources.”
The hospital plans to begin construction next year. Dragomier
said the hospital may tap its own funds or seek private
donations to replace the lost funding.
During the six years he ran an appropriations subcommittee
responsible for education, health care and job program funding,
Regula used his clout to steer tens of millions in federal
dollars to projects in his district and Northeast Ohio.
Now that he’s in the minority, Regula expects to have far less
access to any future earmark funds than in the past.
“If you’re not chairman (of a subcommittee), it makes quite a
difference,” he said.
While the 2007 spending bill does not contain explicit earmarks,
some believe that lawmakers will find a way to get their desired
local projects funded, anyway.
Former Senate staffer Winslow T. Wheeler, director of the Straus
Military Reform Project in the Center for Defense Information,
said he’s certain lawmakers will contact federal agencies and
insist their projects get funded even without written
instructions in the spending bill.
“I bet you (congressional) staffers are making these calls (to
agencies) starting yesterday,” he said. “It’s the system.”
Regula denied this will occur.
And he said neither he nor his staff would press any federal
agencies to fund the projects he had placed in legislation.
“I don’t think he knows what he’s talking about,” he said of
Wheeler. “That’s not going to happen.”
“There are no earmarks, period,” Regula said. “Agencies have
their own programs, their own priorities, and they’re not in the
business of picking out specific projects.”
HIGHWAY PROJECTS AFFECTED
Stark County highway projects and an after-school program in
Massillon also are threatened by the earmark cutoff.
But local officials say not getting the funding is not so
“We never count on those until we get them,” said Paul Jaeger,
technical director at the Stark County Area Transportation
He acknowledged that one of the planned projects — the widening
of Alabama Avenue between Elton Street SW in Sugar Creek
Township and Orrville Street NW in Lawrence Township — probably
won’t go forward without the $1 million in funding Regula had
But that’s because it’s a “pretty low volume road” and not a
high priority, he added.
Two other projects that were to receive a combined $1 million in
earmarked funds — reconstruction of the Tremont Avenue bridge in
Massillon and improvements to the Fulton Drive-Wales Avenue NW
intersection in Jackson Township — are expected to continue.
“Some of that money (not received in earmarks) will be made up
by local money,” he said.
The Massillon-based AHEAD Foundation, which helps pay for an
after-school program and other services for high-risk students
in the Massillon City Schools, was looking forward to its first
earmark from Regula.
Regula put a $100,000 earmark in a spending bill last year for
the programs that serve several hundred kids in the elementary
and middle schools.
Vanessa Stergios, executive director of AHEAD, said the funds
would have replaced an expiring federal education grant.
Now, she said, the Massillon schools will reapply for the
And what if that fails?
“We will continue to look for other places to get funding,”
Stergios said. “I’m optimistic that we will find funding
Millions in projects cut from bill
WASHINGTON Millions of dollars in federal spending that U.S.
Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, had reserved for local
projects last year is not coming through after Democratic
congressional leaders erased earmarks from a spending bill
passed last week.
By type of project, the funding that has been axed includes:
n $1 million for shoulder widening on Alabama Avenue between
Elton Street SW in Sugar Creek Township and Orrville Street NW
in Lawrence Township in Stark County.
n $500,000 for replacement of Tremont Avenue bridge in
n $500,000 for widening and safety improvements to Fulton Drive
and Wales Avenue NW intersection in Jackson Township.
n $500,000 to purchase 110 acres in Bethlehem Township for a
park along Ohio & Erie Canalway.
n $500,000 for city of Green to acquire eight acres to add to
197-acre former Southgate Farm.
n $2.55 million for second phase of fuel cell research for
SOFCo-EFS of Alliance and Rolls Royce Fuel Cell Systems.
n $2 million for Timken Co. project to develop system to improve
energy conservation in manufacturing.
n $1 million for flood protection project for Louisville.
HOSPITALS AND HEALTH
n $750,000 for YMCA of Central Stark County to renovate Canton
n $700,000 for Aultman Hospital to furnish a hospice center.
n $700,000 for Mercy Medical Center to renovate and expand its
n $800,000 for Stark State College of Technology for health and
n $700,000 for Malone College for nursing facility.
n $700,000 for Walsh University for public-health education
n $700,000 for Mount Union College for renovation and expansion
of education and wellness facility.
n $100,000 for AHEAD Foundation after-school program in