This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Flake (R-AZ), which would have deleted $250,000, earmarked for the Monroe County, Kentucky Farmer's Market construction project, 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 repeated arguments he had been making against many earmarks in a series of spending bills and asked, rhetorically “why are we saddling the taxpayers with a bill for construction of one more farmers' market? I have no doubt that this farmers' market in Kentucky has seen a drop in business as a result of the economy. Virtually every business across this country has . . . The question again here is how do we choose? And why do we say, all right, we're going to aid this one but not another one? And in particular at a time like this, why are we taking money from the taxpayers and then distributing it out as we see fit, rather than allowing them to keep it themselves?”
Rep. Whitfield (R-KY), who was responsible for having this earmark inserted into H.R. 3288, responded to Rep. Flake. Whitfield said that Monroe County “is primarily economically driven by agriculture and the textile industry, except the textile industry has closed down over the last 10 years or so. The unemployment rate in Monroe County right now is 15 percent. The most important economic engine in Monroe County is agriculture. And that's why I requested (funds) . . . to develop this farmers' exchange facility to help the economic development in that area.”
Whitfield then noted that the farmers market in Washington, DC had recently received two million dollars in federal money, but that “Monroe County does not have access to high-priced lobbyists. There's not a lot of influence in Monroe County. So when they came to me--and I don't get that many earmarks--I simply felt it was the proper thing to do . . .”
The amendment was defeated on a vote of 98-331. Eighty-nine Republicans and nine Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and forty-seven Democrats and eighty-four Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the $250,000 earmarked for the Monroe County Farmers Market remained in the bill providing the 2010 fiscal year funding for the HUD and the Department of Transportation.