New fed budget directs millions toward Missouri

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Southeast Missouri is slated to receive a considerable boon from a $397.4 billion federal spending bill on its way to President Bush, thanks in large part to two of the state's elected officials in Congress.

The government dollars are among hundreds of millions destined for Missouri now that Congress has approved the measure. It pays for the operations of nearly every federal agency for the current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.

U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, worked in conjunction with U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, to use leverage in directing funds to projects Southeast Missouri.

"These dollars go a long way toward improving the lives and livelihoods for many living and working in southern Missouri," Emerson said.

Building in Cape

The bill asks for $49.3 million for the construction of a new federal courthouse in Cape Girardeau. The current building is already strained by a 70 percent increase in criminal case filings over the last 10 years.

Another $970,000 is set aside in the bill to help modernize and purchase new equipment for the Southeast Missouri Crime Lab. This facility on the Southeast Missouri State University campus processes evidence for the majority of criminal cases in nearly a quarter of the state. The facility needs to expand to keep pace with the sharp increase in regional methamphetamine cases and the addition of classroom space for the university's law enforcement academy for continuing education.

Cape Girardeau would receive $1 million toward downtown revitalization and improving municipal services. For the planned Interstate 55/Main Street corridor at Jackson, the bill designates $100,000.

Emerson criticized the bill's $3.1 billion in drought aid for farmers and ranchers, saying it wasn't enough and that most Southeast Missouri producers couldn't qualify to get the extra help.

"I am extremely disheartened by the lack of consideration given to them during this process," she said in a statement.

Swimming for disabled

An exercise and rehabilitation center for the disabled being planned in O'Fallon, Mo., would get $900,000 from the bill. The money for the Show-Me Aquatic Center helps to start a $14 million project intended to be fully accessible for people with disabilities. The 50,000-square-foot indoor facility would have six swimming pools kept at varying temperatures for therapy and fitness with ramps and lifts for entering the pools.

$254 million to Missouri

On Friday Congressional staffers still were poring over the more than 3,000-page bill to see what their states would get, but Bond issued a list of dozens of Missouri projects worth $254 million to Missouri.

"This money will help Missouri create and keep jobs at a time when our state needs the most help," Bond said in a statement, referring to a budget crisis in state government.

In southwest Missouri, Springfield will get $3 million and Joplin will get $810,000 to start planning new airport terminal buildings.

"It's no secret that Joplin's air terminal needs more than a coat of paint," said Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who represents southwest Missouri.

Springfield also will get $250,000 to help renovate the historic Gillioz Theatre, which opened in 1926 as the finest movie theater in the region. Hollywood leading man Ronald Reagan visited there in 1952 to premiere his Warner Brothers picture "The Winning Team."

Kansas City would get $10 million to speed up completion of the Blue River Channel flood control project and $16.13 million to replace the roof of one building in the Bannister Federal Complex.

In Kirkwood, an interactive Magic Library would get $75,000 to help promote literacy in disadvantaged communities.

"These projects will help improve the quality of Missouri health care and education," said GOP Sen. Jim Talent, who sought the funds.

The measure provides money for every agency but the Pentagon, whose budget was completed last year.

By Bond's calculations, it contains at least $76.5 million for Missouri flood control and other energy and water projects, $73.9 million for law enforcement and the courts, $47.8 million for transportation projects, $29.6 million for public housing, environment, science and development, $13 million for agriculture projects, $8.1 million for parks and recreation, and $5 million for health projects.

Bond and Talent voted Thursday for the big spending measure, as did Republican Reps. Sam Graves, Kenny Hulshof, Blunt and Mrs. Emerson and Democratic Reps. Karen McCarthy and Ike Skelton.

Democratic Reps. William Lacy Clay and Dick Gephardt and GOP Rep. Todd Akin voted against the measure.

In general, Democrats who opposed it said it shortchanged education, domestic security and park lands, while some conservative Republicans were angry that it spent too much on home district projects, which critics call pork.

Despite criticism from various groups, the projects are popular in lawmakers' home districts, and members of Congress generally distribute lists of the spending earmarks they sought.

The "pork" label means the treasury into which lawmakers dip for projects back home.

The term became part of the political lexicon, in a negative context, after the Civil War and probably comes from the practice of handing out salt pork to slaves who sometimes rushed the barrel to get a share.

--Staff writer Mike Wells contributed to this report.

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