Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

`Pork' Plan on the Menu for Budget

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

`Pork' Plan on the Menu for Budget

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- Just a week after lawmakers swore they couldn't

responsibly cut taxes any further, the House yesterday approved

a mid-year spending plan containing $11 million worth of pet

projects.

The projects range from monuments, fire trucks and band

uniforms to harbor improvements.

The 400 special projects -- commonly called "pork" by lawmakers

-- are a small part of the $750 million in new spending approved

for fiscal 1998, which ends June 30.

However, during debate on the budget, the number and amount

spent on local projects -- which give lawmakers something to

brag about on the reelection campaign trail -- overshadowed the

$200 million increase in education spending and $35 million to

upgrade rural airports.

"The $11 million pork in this budget is a record by a large

margin," said House Minority Leader Bob Irvin, R-Atlanta. "Many

of these are worthy projects, though some of them are

questionable. But they are there because of the process we use,

not because of how worthy they are.

"Most of the people, even the leadership of the [budget]

committee, don't know what some of these things really do."

House Majority Leader Larry Walker, D-Perry, who presented the

mid-year budget to the House, defended the "special projects."

"In one sense of the word, that's a lot of money, but in the

overall scheme of things, it's not much money," he told

colleagues. "This is simply sending [money] back to people at

the local level, taxpayers on the local level.

"I make no apologies for it. It's helping people with things

they cannot do at the local level."

The mid-year budget now moves to the Senate. Senators are

expected to add their own local projects to the budget before

sending it to the governor for his signature.

Yesterday's 149-23 vote came a week after Gov. Zell Miller

signed a $205 million income tax cut into law. Democrats who

pushed that legislation argued it would be irresponsible for

lawmakers to adopt further tax cuts promoted by Republicans.

The mid-year plan approved by the House increases the budget

for fiscal 1998 to $12.6 billion, and allocates about $200

million for education to fund increased enrollment and

construction, and $150 million to fix internal clocks and

calenders in state computers.

House budget writers shifted some major construction projects

from the governor's proposed budget for next year into the

mid-year bill, an effort to get the programs started a few

months earlier.

Among the shifted bond projects is $4.1 million for a Savannah

River channel deepening project and $1. …

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