With recent talk about ethics and transparency, some Georgia Democrats proposing legislation that would require an earmark database for specific line items requested by the Governor or members of the Georgia General Assembly:
Georgia’s House Democrats want to see a detailed online list of earmarks posted early and updated often during the state’s three-month budget-writing season.
By earmarks, the Democrats say they’re aiming for any funds assigned to a specific project named in the state budget.
One of the authors of the bill that proposes the database, state Rep. Elena Parent, D-Chamblee, downplays her party’s small numbers when asked about the chances of passage.
“I would assume this is something that could have bipartisan support,” she said.
Parent wants earmarks to be searchable by price, legislative district, recipient and more.
Former Gov. Sonny Perdue’s Go Fish program — a $19 million project that improved fish stocks, built boat ramps and a visitor center aimed at promoting economic development through fishing — is “a singular example” of an earmark, said House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta.
In fact, in Gov. Nathan Deal’s draft budget for next year, it’s a bit difficult to point to a line that smells like pork. Yet there are appropriations that rarely bask in the light of day.
Indeed, when legislators fight about annual appropriations, they’re not battling about a whole pie. Some things can’t be cut, such as interest payments. Some things have to be in the budget or the federal government won’t send down a matching grant.
Another somewhat obscure area is bonded projects. At the end of his budget, Deal lists projects that he recommends for funding via bond sales. But that list is not the easiest to find. It’s in a book for sale in Atlanta for $22 or online for anyone who happens to know to look at the right part of the right document on the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget website. And it’s not searchable by legislative district, something the Democrats propose.
This was a subject I was interviewed on back in 2007 when Chris Farris and I were running Georgia Porkbusters. Personally, I like the idea, and it’s something I’ve been pushing for some time. By no means does it mean that they’re going to cut spending, but it could help draw attention to egregious examples of waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars. It’s worth noting that in the last few years, some of the wasteful spending – including Local Assistance Grants – have been mostly, if not entirely, done away with. That doesn’t mean that Georgia has had pork-free budgets these last two or three years…God knows, the Republican-controlled legislature porked up the budget enough before the crisis to carry through until the economy improves.