Published January 2007 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd Building Better Fiscal Roads There is no easy, painless way out of the fiscal chaos left behind by the outgoing Congress. In six years, we have seen a $5 trillion surplus drained, and our government swamped in an ocean of red ink.
The outgoing Congressional leadership ended 2006 without completing work on a single appropriations bill that invests in our communities, provides medical care for veterans, fights crime, or works to make college more accessible.
As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, it is my responsibility to help provide leadership out of this fiscal mayhem.
These are dire and fiscally challenging times. State and local governments need to know how and what the federal government is funding, and Congress needs time to consider and legislate fiscal issues more responsibly. Reforms to the earmarking process are long overdue.
It is important that West Virginians know that, while extraordinary measures are being taken to restore credibility and responsibility to Congressional spending discretion, critical development projects in the state are not being abandoned.
For example, Senator Rockefeller and I worked very hard to make sure that legislation was passed during the last session that will continue the advancement of the state's beneficial high priority projects. The decision to disallow earmarks in the Fiscal 2007 appropriations bills will not impact previous funding for meritorious projects. Congressional earmarks will be eligible for consideration in the 2008 budget under the reformed process.
I am proud of the community, economic, and research projects I have been able to help bring to West Virginia over the years, and honored to publicly sponsor those bills. However, one of the flaws of the earmarking process is that it is difficult to evaluate earmarks that are not openly sponsored by an individual legislator. It is often these "unclaimed earmarks" that are involved in corruption scandals like those involving former Representative "Duke" Cunningham and lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
It is unavoidable that bringing long overdue reforms to the appropriations process will mean short term delays in some funding areas. However, promoting fiscal responsibility and consistency is absolutely necessary in order to restore confidence and promote transparency in funding decisions.
Soon, with new standards in place for Congressionally directed investments, we will be able to move West Virginia and the country forward with a more open, more accountable federal funding process.
January 24, 2007