Peoria Journal Star
September 29, 2006
Spending bill likely to pass this week
Region to reap benefits from defense measure
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congress is expected to give final
approval this week to a $448 billion defense spending bill that
includes millions designated to help central Illinois projects and
firms, including some in Peoria and Springfield.
The funding is included in a House-Senate compromise, which the
Senate is expected to approve before Congress adjourns for the
campaign season. The House approved the measure late Tuesday in a
The funding would be provided in a Pentagon spending bill for
federal fiscal year 2007, which begins Sunday.
The agreement includes $22.8 million that would benefit
Peoria-based Caterpillar Inc, according to Rep. Ray LaHood,
R-Peoria, a member of the House Appropriations Committee who
requested the funding.
Of that $22.8 million, $9.75 million would be for the purchase
of construction equipment for the Navy, $9.4 million is for the
purchase of scrapers for the Army Reserve and $3.6 million is for
high-speed diesel combustible engine research, according to
A House version of the funding bill, passed last June, included
$75.2 million for the Caterpillar programs, but the Senate bill
didn't provide any funding, according to LaHood's office.
Caterpillar received $26 million in earmarks requested by LaHood
in the current fiscal year.
Other earmarks requested by LaHood and included in the
House-Senate agreement are:
- $3.25 million for Firefly Energy, an offshoot of Caterpillar,
which is developing a longer-lasting and lighter-weight battery
that it hopes to sell to the Army. The fledgling firm had received
$5 million earlier in the House bill but nothing in the Senate
bill. At LaHood's request, Firefly received $2.5 million this
- $2 million for the 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria for a secure
computer system. The same amount was provided by both the House
- $1 million for PeoriaNext for a robotics program, which was
the same amount included in the House bill. Nothing was included
in the Senate bill.
- $1.6 million for Memorial Health System in Springfield for
computerized intravenous infusion pumps to help prevent medication
errors. The House bill had included $2.5 million, but no funds
were initially included by the Senate.
The House-Senate compromise also would provide $30 million for
operating and maintaining C-9C aircraft at Scott Air Force Base
and preparing for the C-40 aircraft that are scheduled to be
delivered to Scott beginning in 2007, according to Sen. Dick
Durbin, D-Ill., a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Durbin requested the funding along with Reps. John Shimkus,
R-Collinsville, and Jerry Costello, D-Belleville.
The agreement also includes $3 million for the Army to develop
a rocket- propelled grenade protection system. Decatur
Electronics, located in Decatur, would compete for the contract,
With the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year just days away,
the defense bill would be the first of 11 funding bills to be
approved by Congress. The bill contains a provision to keep
federal agencies open through Nov. 17 at their current levels of
While Durbin and LaHood have repeatedly defended the use of
earmarks as a way to benefit their constituents, critics say the
earmarking process directs funds for political purposes rather
than national priorities.
"Lawmakers are ready to split town with their bags stuffed with
projects that do not reflect smart spending for a nation at war,"
complained Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a group that
monitors federal spending.
LaHood said recently that "people in central Illinois like
earmarks because they know that it benefits programs and helps
More than 2,000 earmarks are estimated to be in the defense
funding bill, but they are difficult to find unless the sponsors
choose to disclose them, said Ellis, who is still reviewing the
314-page conference agreement.
Although the House recently passed new rules that would require
disclosure of sponsors of certain earmarks, Ellis noted that no
sponsors were named in the defense bill because of "loopholes" in
the rule. The new rule exempts earmarks that go to federal
entities and those inserted for the first time during the
Most earmarks designate funding for federal agencies or
programs, such as the Army's research and development program,
that would ultimately benefit local initiatives or firms, he said.
While there appear to be more earmarks than previous years, the
amounts are smaller, Ellis said.
"It appears they are spreading the dollars farther and thinner
with the elections coming up," he said.
Dori Meinert can be reached at (202)737-7686 or email@example.com.