(H.R. 3288) On the Flake of Arizona amendment, which would have deleted $500,000 earmarked for the terminal replacement project at Grand Forks, North Dakota International Airport
This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Flake (R-AZ), which would have deleted $500,000 earmarked for the terminal replacement project at Grand Forks International Airport in Grand Forks, North Dakota 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. He said “we're told that the funds that are being earmarked from this Airport Improvement Program . . . is a widely used competitive grant program that others can apply for grants from. The Competitive Grant Program stipulates later that the funds can't generally be used for terminals or terminal improvements. So the biggest question . . . is why in the world we're designating money from this account that is an account for competitive grants to be received by applicants, why we're designating it as an earmark to an airport terminal that typically falls outside of the purview of the funds in this account.”
Rep. Pomeroy (D-ND), who was responsible for having the earmark inserted into H.R. 3288, responded. He presented statistics showing that about 1/8 of the money in the competitive grant program is used for airport terminals. He said it is used where terminals are “beyond repair and must be attended to on a priority basis for the needs of the general public . . . They involve issues of safety.” Pomeroy noted that the Grand Forks International Airport is the 22nd busiest airport in the country because is hosts a major pilot training program, which “places a tremendous traffic burden on what would otherwise be a small airport facility.”
Flake responded by saying “I'm not questioning the need for renovations to the terminal”, but then repeated an argument he had been making against earmarks in a series of spending bills. He said “we appropriate money to the various agencies, and we'll instruct them to establish a competitive grant program to distribute the moneys to worthy recipients. Then the folks at home in the municipal airports or states or whatever district they're in will decide that they want . . . these funds . . . I'm not blaming Democrats. Republicans are just as guilty of this . . . In this particular case, this earmark is taken from an account that is supposed to be competitively offered, and grants are to be awarded on a competitive basis on the basis of merit.”
The amendment was defeated by a vote of 108-327. One hundred and two Republicans and six Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and fifty-four Democrats and seventy-three Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the $500,000 earmarked for the Grand Forks, North Dakota International Airport remained in the bill providing the 2010 fiscal year funding for the HUD and the Department of Transportation.