This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Flake (R-AZ), which would have deleted $250,000 earmarked for the Murphy Theatre Community Center in Wilmington, Ohio from the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Transportation.
Rep. Flake had been a constant critic of “earmarks”, or legislatively mandated projects such as this one, that were inserted at the request of individual Members into funding bills. In support of his amendment, he raised one question that reflected the arguments he had been making on all the earmarks to which he had been objecting: “Should the federal taxpayers in the State of Washington or Wisconsin or Arizona or Alaska or elsewhere be sending their hard-earned tax dollars to Washington to be earmarked to renovate a theater in Ohio . . . ?
Rep. Turner (R-OH), who was responsible for having the earmark inserted into H.R. 3288, responded by saying “all across the country we are all experiencing the economic downturn, but specifically, in Wilmington, Ohio . . . As a result, the Ohio delegation has sought increased Federal assistance to help the community as they recover from this economic emergency . . . The 91-year-old Murphy Theatre . . . is the actual, as well as symbolic, heart of the downtown . . .Today the Murphy Theatre hosts an average of 35 events a year, serving approximately 6,000 adults and 4,000 children. Funding for this project will provide critical infrastructure assistance to ensure the viability of this local landmark. . . Wilmington hasn't the funds to perform even basic repairs to stabilize the condition of this American landmark.”
Flake answered: “(T)hat sounds like a wonderful theater. As I mentioned, I think we all have them in all our districts . . . But we can't have a policy at the Federal level where we renovate every theater across the country, particularly while we're running a deficit that could hit $2 trillion this year. How many theaters out there are in need of repair? How many districts are experiencing high unemployment . . . We cannot continue to spend money as we're spending money, and I would submit this is a good place to start to say let's not fund some of these renovations of theaters under the guise of economic development.”
The amendment was defeated by a vote of 105-328. Ninety-six Republicans and nine Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and fifty-one Democrats and seventy-seven Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the $250,000 earmarked for the Murphy Theatre Community Center in Wilmington, Ohio remained in the bill providing the 2010 fiscal year funding for the HUD and the Department of Transportation.