This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 14, 2009 - U.S. Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond may take heat for his love of congressional "earmarks," but he made clear Sunday he isn't about to break off the relationship.
Bond, R-Mo., announced that he secured $118 million in funding for numerous Missouri projects in the massive $1.1 trillion spending bill approved Sunday by the Senate for the current (2010) fiscal year that began Oct. 1.
The bill covers roughly half of the spending measures that the Democratic-controlled Congress needs to be pass, but have been delayed by partisan fights.
Because the measure already had gotten approval in the House (without the earmarks), and both chambers approved the conference report, the bill now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.
Bond may be one of the loudest critics of this year's congressional largesse, but he wants to make sure Missouri gets its share of it. That's why he makes no apologies for his expansive use of "earmarks," in which a senator uses his or her clout to designate federal money for favored projects.
Missouri's junior member in the U.S. Senate, Democrat Claire McCaskill, opposes earmarks and refuses to engage in the practice, she says.
"Too often unaccountable bureaucrats don’t understand state and local needs,” said Bond in a statement aimed at defending his efforts. “Local and community leaders in Missouri asked me to help send some of their tax dollars back home for local priorities and with today’s passage these critical projects are close to becoming a reality.”
About half of the Missouri money will go to two veterans medical facilities in St. Louis: Jefferson Barracks and Cochran. As a result, the St. Louis area snags more than $73 milllion.
The Bond-backed allocations affecting the region include:
-- $500,000 for the Midwest China Hub Commission, which is wooing China in hopes of persuading that country to set up a Midwest transit hub at Lambert airport.
-- $600,000 for St. Louis Community College for the BioBench and Training Facility in St. Louis. "The funds will help build and equip 10,000 square feet of classroom and laboratory space at the new Danforth Center North 8 facility, which will provide specialized career and technical training for students interested in careers in life sciences," Bond's office said.
-- $1 million for SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St. Louis. "The funds will help create a hybrid cardiac catheterization suite for pediatric heart interventions. This suite will bring the latest cutting-edge technology to children in the St. Louis area, and the state of Missouri, to improve outcomes in children’s heart care."
-- $225,000 for the St. Louis Art Museum Foundation in St. Louis. "The funds will provide for the restoration and reinstallation of exhibits," Bond's staff said, noting that he "secured these funds in conjunction with" U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis.
-- $1.15 million to the Bi-State Development Agency in St. Louis, Missouri for the construction of a new downtown Metro Bus transfer center. "The center will provide an efficient transfer point between bus and light rail for customers accessing jobs, hotels and the convention center," said the senator's office.
-- $1 million to Northside Community Housing for the Ville Affordable Housing Preservation in St. Louis, to "provide for renovations to preserve affordable housing units for low and moderate income seniors, individuals, and families."
-- $3 million to the St. Louis County Economic Council for the Wellston Developmental Child Care Center in St. Louis, to "provide low and moderate income families with child care services."
-- $2 million to Saint Louis University for the Center for Aviation Safety Research in St. Louis. "The funds will provide job task analysis, curriculum development, knowledge, and skills training that will improve aviation safety and develop an aviation maintenance workforce for the future," Bond's office said.
-- $43.34 million for the replacement of a bed tower at the John Cochran Medical Facility in St. Louis. "The construction of this new tower will expand space and add extra room for veterans receiving care at the facility." the senator's office said.
-- $19.7 million for the improvement of Veterans Affairs hospital facilities and expansion of the National Cemetery at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis.