This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Flake (R-AZ), which would have deleted $500,000 earmarked for the Millennium Technology Park project in New Castle, Pennsylvania, from the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Transportation. The supporters of the technology park claimed it would create “new advanced job opportunities by providing small to large forward-thinking companies with pre-permitted, shovel-ready sites.”'
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. He said that earmarking funds in spending bills is equivalent to saying that Congress does not trust federal bureaucrats to make the right decisions regarding how the funds should be spent. He added: “(I)f we don't like the way they do it, then set up a structure and say you have to do it by merit. And if we don't like the way you've distributed it the following year . . . (and) prove that you did it on a basis that is not equitable, then we cut your funding completely the next year.”
Flake asked, rhetorically: “(W)hy is it that we're being asked, as taxpayers in California and New Mexico, Arizona, New York, to pay for a technology park to attract businesses in Pennsylvania? “ He claimed that earmarks are disproportionately given to the Members in the congressional leadership and to Members of the Appropriations Committee. Flake gave as evidence of that claim the fact that districts represented by only 24% of all House Members received 70% of all earmarked funds.
Rep. Altmire (D-PA ), who was responsible for having this earmark inserted into H.R. 3288, responded to Rep. Flake. He noted that $18.7 million had already been spent on constructing the technology park and that this additional $500,000 would go only for access roads to it. Altmire said: “I'm a second-term Member. I'm not an appropriator, and I'm not a chairman of a high-level committee, but I was elected to represent the Fourth Congressional District of Pennsylvania. I was elected to survey the need and to do everything I can to fight for my constituents and to fight for my district . . . I was able to convince the (appropriations) committee to put this money in because this is a good use of taxpayer funding. This is going to create jobs. This is going to grow the economy in two states across nine counties.”
The amendment was defeated on a vote of 105-329. One hundred and one Republicans and four Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and fifty-six Democrats and seventy-three Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the $500,000 earmarked for the Millennium Technology Park project in Pennsylvania remained in the bill providing the 2010 fiscal year funding for HUD and the Department of Transportation.