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23rd District Loses Nearly $14 Million in Congressional Earmarks

Capps says objections from Republicans killed a bill that would have funded 14 district projects, including four in Santa Barbara County

As lawmakers and the money they squirrel away in the form of earmarks come under increasing scrutiny, the South Coast has not escaped having funding withdrawn for local projects. Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, has announced that nearly $14 million in funding earmarked for projects in the 23rd District is no longer part of this year’s appropriations measure because of opposition from Republicans.

In the Nov. 2 election, Republicans swept to a 63-seat majority in the House of Representatives and made significant gains in the Senate on the strength of the Tea Party movement that made government spending its top issue. Anger over earmarks has fueled the resolve of the still-minority congressional GOP.

In a memo sent to local media Monday, Capps said funding was eliminated for 14 projects in her district, including four in Santa Barbara County. One appropriated $650,000 to update the Carpinteria Creek Bridge over Highway 101 to flood-level requirements, and another $650,000 would have helped build a new outpatient center for the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara. The third project earmarked $200,000 to the Guadalupe Police Department for upgrades, and the fourth project would have provided $1.6 million to Vandenberg Air Force Base for an education center.

Capps said the objection of Senate Republicans led Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to pull the $1.1 trillion spending bill from consideration during the recently concluded lame-duck congressional session. As a result, none of the projects will receive funding.

Instead of passing the full spending bill, Congress approved a continuing resolution that freezes government spending at last year’s levels until March. The 112th Congress will take up new appropriations bills after it is seated Monday.

“I was particularly disturbed by the posturing of Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who killed the bill over what he said was too many earmarks and too much spending, even though he had put 42 earmarks worth $86.1 million in the bill, and the bill did not exceed the spending ceiling he himself had set earlier in the year,” said Capps, referring to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Capps maintains that the projects would have created local jobs and improved quality of life. Her memo stated that a common misconception is that earmarks add to the total cost of the appropriations bill.

“For example, $10 billion of earmarks in a $100 billion appropriations bill would not bring the total cost to $110 billion,” she said. “By eliminating the earmark funding, the bill would still total $100 billion, but it would be up to the specific agencies how to spend the $10 billion that had been previously designated for earmarks.”

The condition and width of Highway 101 have been issues for years, and certainly since Capps was first elected in 2003, so what difference would a few months make?

“The congresswoman believes that Santa Barbara County has waited long enough to see these critical road improvements materialize,” said Ashley Schapitl, Capps’ press secretary.

Funding for transportation projects would provide an economic boost for jobs, said Schapitl, adding that construction delays can contribute to increased costs for projects.

Noozhawk also asked Schapitl about the practice of last-minute cramming of unread bills and earmarks into legislation. She said the appropriations bills received extensive consideration before the lame-duck session in the appropriations committees and subcommittees of both the Senate and House.

List of Earmarks

Projects in Santa Barbara County

Project Name: Highway 101 High Occupancy Vehicle Widening Project, Carpinteria Creek Bridge
Recipient of Federal Funds: Santa Barbara County Association of Governments
Recipient Address: 260 N. San Antonio Road, Suite B, Santa Barbara
Amount Awarded: $650,000
Explanation of Request: This project would replace the Highway 101 bridge over Carpinteria Creek with a bridge that is above 100-year flood levels based on flood maps recently released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The profile of Highway 101 to the north and south of the bridge also would have to be raised to conform to the new elevated bridge, and the bridge would accommodate two new High Occupancy Vehicle lanes plus the four lanes already on Highway 101. This request is one component of the Highway 101 High Occupancy Vehicle Lane Widening Project between the cities of Carpinteria and Santa Barbara, which has been unanimously approved by Santa Barbara County Association of Government’s board as the region’s highest priority for federal transportation funding. This request is a valuable use of taxpayer funds because it creates incentives for carpooling and makes sensible, pre-emptive changes to needed highway infrastructure in light of the potential for flood-related natural disasters.

Project Name: Cancer Center of Santa Barbara
Recipient of Federal Funds: Cancer Center of Santa Barbara
Recipient Address: 300 W. Pueblo St, Santa Barbara
Amount Requested: $650,000
Explanation of Request: This funding would enable the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara to build a modernized, stand-alone, first-class outpatient cancer center that is geographically accessible to patients. Currently, the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara operates in space leased within Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, which is undergoing renovations; however, planned renovations still will result in less than optimal conditions and will not allow for the acquisition of new treatment methods in coming years. The request is a valuable use of taxpayer funds because when the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara can combine all of its services under one stand-alone roof — radiation oncology, medical oncology, nuclear medicine, research, support services and wellness — it will greatly enhance a patient’s experience. This request is a valuable use of taxpayer funds because it also will facilitate the best possible care from a variety of health-care professionals, several of whom are forming new care models through weekly disease-specific review boards.

Project Name: City of Guadalupe Police Department Technology Upgrades
Recipient of Federal Funds: Guadalupe Police Department
Recipient Address: 4490 10th St., Guadalupe
Amount Awarded: $200,000
Explanation of Request: The funding would be used to address the critical need to replace outdated, unserviceable or noncompatible essential safety equipment and upgrade sub-standard facilities and deteriorating infrastructure at the Guadalupe Police Department. This request is a valuable use of taxpayer funds because this equipment, most of which no longer meets the standards/requirements established by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office and the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, negatively affects the ability of the police department to provide for a safe, effective working environment for its employees and reduces the quality of law enforcement services provided to the community.

Project Name: Vandenberg Air Force Base Education Center, Phase 1
Recipient of Federal Funds: Vandenberg Air Force Base
Recipient Address: 747 Nebraska Ave., Suite A-103, Vandenberg AFB
Amount Awarded: $1.6 million
Explanation of Request: The funding would be used to construct a consolidated education center for the academic and professional development of officers, airmen and DOD civilian employees. This is a valuable use of taxpayer funds because the education center will support Air Force and DOD goals and provide an encouraging learning environment.

Projects in Ventura County

Project Name: California County Pest Detection Augmentation Program — Pest Detection
Recipient of Federal Funds: California Department of Food and Agriculture
Amount Requested: $619,000
Explanation of Request: The funding would be used to support the California County Pest Detection Trapping Program, which maintains a statewide network of insect traps and detection tools to serve as an early warning system against serious agricultural pests. This request is a valuable use of taxpayer funds because when pests go undetected and become established, eradication and control efforts incur significant costs for county, state and federal governments.

Project Name: Renewable Photovoltaic Solar Power, Ventura AFRC
Recipient of Federal Funds: California National Guard
Amount Awarded: $1.466 million
Explanation of Request: The funding would be used to design and install a renewable energy photovoltaic (PV) solar electric power system connected to the public grid at the Ventura AFRC. This is a valuable use of taxpayer funds because the new facility will significantly reduce the facility’s power demand and support DoD and State of California goals to use renewable energy sources.

Project Name: Matilija Dam
Recipient of Federal Funds: Ventura County Watershed Protection District
Amount Awarded: $518,000
Explanation of Request: The funding would be used to complete pre-construction engineering and design work, and begin construction work on the removal of the Matilija Dam. This request is a valuable use of taxpayer funds because the 200-foot tall Matilija Dam, located on a tributary of the Ventura River, needs to be removed in order to re-establish runs of the endangered southern steelhead, re-establish the natural flow of sand flow to coastal beaches, and provide new recreational opportunities above the dam.

Project Name: Santa Clara River Watershed
Recipient of Federal Funds: Ventura County Watershed Protection District
Amount Awarded: $108,000
Explanation of Request: The funding would be used to complete a feasibility study for the Santa Clara River Watershed, the largest in Southern California. This request is a valuable use of taxpayer funds because if the federal government fails to assist key local and state stakeholders in developing the Santa Clara River Enhancement and Management Plan, the continued pressure of urbanization in both Los Angeles and Ventura counties could jeopardize the floodplain and environmental resources in the Santa Clara River Watershed.

Project Name: Ventura County Sheriff’s Department Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement (SAFE) Team Task Force
Recipient of Federal Funds: Ventura County Sheriff’s Department
Amount Awarded: $500,000
Explanation of Request: The funding would be used to support a regional task force for monitoring, tracking and locating registered sex offenders, in a combined effort to increase compliance rate in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. This request is a valuable use of taxpayer funds because law enforcement partnerships focused on predatory sex offenders can reduce violent sexual assault crimes through proactive enforcement measures.

Projects in San Luis Obispo County

Project Name: California State University Applied Agriculture and Environmental Research
Recipient of Federal Funds: California State University, Fresno Foundation (Cal State Fresno administered grant, but monies went to Cal Poly)
Amount Awarded: $693,000
Explanation of Request: The funding would be used to leverage federal funding with university and industry capital to find solutions for priority issues challenging California agriculture, the environment, and consumer health and safety. This request is a valuable use of taxpayer funds because while most funded research takes place in California, results are available in the public domain, and are applicable to improving agriculture and environmental practices throughout the nation, and increasing industry, consumer and public policy makers’ accessibility to “real time” scientifically based information about pressing issues.

Project Name: San Luis Obispo County Anti-Gang Employment Coordinator
Recipient of Federal Funds: San Luis Obispo County
Amount Awarded: $80,000
Explanation of Request: The funding would be used by the coordinator to develop a strategic, coordinated and collaborative effort between law enforcement agencies, social service providers and the general public with the objective of curtailing gang involvement and its negative impact on the residents of San Luis Obispo County. This request is a valuable use of taxpayer funds because federal funding will assist with the apprehension of gang members, the disruption and dismantlement of gangs, and the investigation and prevention of gang-related crimes.

Additional Projects

Project Name: Pierce’s Disease, California Special Grant
Recipient of Federal Funds: University of California
Amount Awarded: $2 million
Explanation of Request: The funding would be used for Pierce’s disease research projects in California. This request is a valuable use of taxpayer funds because grant for the University of California would provide funds for research on the vine-killing Pierce’s disease that threatens the U.S. grape and wine industry.

Project Name: California Bay-Watershed Education and Training Program
Recipient of Federal Funds: NOAA Office of Education
Amount Awarded: $1.5 million
Explanation of Request: The funding would be used to continue supporting environment-based education to students in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. This request is a valuable use of taxpayer funds because the grants provided, through a competitive process to eligible organizations, fund meaningful educational experiences to students, teachers and communities that increase environmental stewardship and appreciation of the watershed and marine environment.

Project Name: Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle Virtual Trainers (MRAP-VVT)
Recipient of Federal Funds: California National Guard
Amount Awarded: $1.466 million
Explanation of Request: The funding would be used to purchase vehicle virtual trainers to allow soldiers to conduct training on MRAP vehicles. This is a valuable use of taxpayer funds because it will expand soldier access to training on MRAP vehicles and reduce training costs for National Guard units.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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