Earmarks and Elections

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pigAs a young man I always marvelled that the day for filing my taxes was as far as can be on a calendar from election day. Whatever politician dreamt that up is a genius. But taxes aren’t the only things located around the other side of the electoral mountain.

Earmarks are a way our representatives acquire state aid for their districts. Some of this aid is needed; some of it – well, not so much. And none of it is handed to localities as a block grant, which would give cities and towns the flexibility to spend it on what they think they need. No, that money must be spent on what it has been written into law that it be spent on – glass museums and lights for junior high stadiums. Things like that.

Now, these earmarks might indeed be the will of the people and I realize that budget earmarks are rolled out during budget season, which necessarily resides at the opposite end of the calendar from elections. Nevertheless, elected officials should be required to defend their earmarks at election time and this is much more likely to happen if they were revealed the last week of October, instead of the middle of April. At the very least, our elected officials should be required to explain to the voters that maybe, just maybe, among the reasons there’s a yawning budget deficit or there isn’t enough state aid available to offer property tax relief is that $500 million were earmarked for desperately needed projects, such as a refurbished clubhouse and locker room at Ponkapoag.