Tea party leads GOP senators to ban earmarks

    The tea party faction of the Republican party has scored one of its first victories since the election two weeks ago. Republican senators have unanimously adopted a ban on earmarks. But some regional recipients worry about the potential loss of the funding method.

    Federal earmarks refer to funding requests for local projects slipped into legislation. To some, it’s pork. To others, it represents an efficient way to get needed dollars.

    A quick look at a list of local projects paid for by earmarks in 2010 include $100,000  dollars for the Mainline Chinese Cultural Center, $750,000 for transportation improvements at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and $500,000 dollars to the Philadelphia police for weapon technology.

    A large number of earmarks went to area universities for research. But they’ve also funded the city’s Youth Violence Reduction Partnership and domestic violence programs.

    Peg Dierkers directs the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

    “We have not seen any statewide funding for the past eight to 10 years,” she said. “So we were able to buffer some of that loss through earmark funding.”

    Without those earmarks, life-saving programs would be threatened, Dierkers said.

    Sen.-elect Pat Toomey sponsored the change in rules and made the elimination of earmarks a cornerstone of his campaign. But Sen. Bob Casey said he’s brought almost $15 million to the region in earmarks since taking office. Casey said recent reforms have made the process more transparent.

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