Massillon Independent

June 14, 2006

Spending bills include millions for local projects

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON – A congressional committee on Tuesday approved two spending bills that include millions of dollars in federal funds for local projects in the Stark County area.

Beneficiaries of the funding, which is not yet final, are located in Canton, Massillon, Alliance and other nearby cities. They include Aultman Hospital, Stark State College of Technology and the Massillon Museum among many other organizations.

Currently, $50,000 is earmarked for technological and digital advancements at the Massillon Museum. Christine Fowler Shearer, director of the museum, said the money would play a significant role in allowing the museum to create a digital catalog of those pieces in its permanent collection.

“Over the last couple of years we were trying to convert collection to a computer-based program,” Shearer said. “That takes a lot of time and staff and we needed the (financial) support to help with that.”

In addition to funding the technology and manpower needed to convert the collection, Shearer also noted that computers will be used to help with educational programming and classes like photography.

“A lot of people are using digital cameras,” Shearer said, “so we could offer classes where they can come in a learn PhotoShop.”

Also included in the spending bills is $100,000 for after-school and other programs at the AHEAD Foundation in Massillon.

Much of the funding is contained in a $141.9 billion domestic spending bill that provides federal funding for health care, education and job training. The House Appropriations Committee approved the projects as it sent the spending bill off to an expected vote in the full House next week.

A separate defense spending bill contains millions for projects at RTI Alloys in Canton and Timken Co.

As the domestic spending bill passed Tuesday, Democrats on the committee succeeded in drawing enough Republican support to pass an amendment that would raise the minimum wage from the current $5.15 an hour to $7.25 an hour over two years.

Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, who chairs the subcommittee that authored the legislation, argued and voted against the increase, which he said was a policy decision that did not belong in a spending bill.

After the vote, Regula predicted that the wage increase would be stripped out of the bill when it reached the House floor under a technical argument that the minimum wage is a policy issue that cannot be addressed by an appropriations committee. The inclusion of the local projects in the legislation marks the most recent occasion when Regula has used his clout as one of the most powerful appropriators in Congress to direct federal spending to his congressional district.

The projects, commonly called earmarks, are placed in legislation by lawmakers as a way to bypass normal federal agency procedures for distributing money based on formulas and competition.

In the past, earmarks were put in the Regula subcommittee bill shortly before it went to the full House and Senate for final approval.

But this year, the projects were attached to the legislation much earlier to give lawmakers and the public more time to review them before final passage.

News stories and criminal investigations in the past year have revealed how some lawmakers and lobbyists kept earmarks hidden from public view and used them as part of a bribery and corruption scheme.

Education earmarks:

• Canton city schools – $100,000.

• Early Childhood Resource Center, Canton – $50,000 for early childhood teacher training.

• Heartbeats to the City, Canton – $50,000 for education mentoring programs.

• Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation, Washington, D.C. – $100,000 for full service community schools program in Canton City Schools.

• Stark Education Partnership, Canton – $75,000 for implement an education model.

• Kent State University, Kent, $100,000 for GED scholars program.

• Stark County Park District, $50,000 for exhibits at Canalway Learning Center.

• Malone College, Canton – $700,000 for facilities and equipment.

• Mount Union College, Alliance – $700,000 for facilities.

• Stark State College of Technology, North Canton – $800,000 for facilities and equipment.

• Walsh University, North Canton – $700,000 for facilities. Health related earmarks include:

• YWCA of Alliance – $100,000 for Alliance Neighborhood Center Apple Seed Project.

• Kent State University, Kent, $200,000 for education programs for scientists at Oak Clinic for Multiple Sclerosis

• Aultman Health Foundation, Canton – $700,000 for equipment for Aultman Hospice Center.

• Mercy Medical Center, Canton – $700,000 for facilities.

• YMCA of Central Stark County, Canton – $750,000 for facilities.

• Visiting Nurse Association Healthcare Partners of (Cleveland) Ohio – $100,000 for CareWatch program in Stark, Wayne, Medina and Ashland counties.

• Stark Prescription Assistance Network Inc., Canton – $100,000 for prescription assistance to the uninsured.

• Children’s Rights Council, Hyattsville, Md. – $50,000 for Safe Haven Access Centers in Stark County.

• AHEAD Foundation Inc., Massillon – $100,000 for after school and other programs.

ARTS earmarks:

• Canton Symphony Orchestra Association, $100,000

• Massillon Museum – $50,000 for technology and digitalization of collections.

• McKinley Museum, Canton – $50,000 for exhibits.

OTHER earmarks:

• Community Mediation Center of Stark County – $50,000 for conflict resolution program.

• Voyager Program Inc., Canton – $50,000 for domestic violence prevention.

• Titanium research at RTI Alloys in Canton – $8 million

• Defense research at Timken Co. – $3 million