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|Alexander defends earmarks|
U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander says criticism over his efforts to secure federal funding for local projects through congressional earmarks will never stop him from fighting for the money.
The project to build a new terminal at Monroe Regional Airport is one endeavor in Alexander's 5th congressional district that has benefited from the earmark process – a process in which Congress appropriates money for a specific item in a spending bill.
While Alexander maintains the federal government is spending too much money at the present time, he says it is his job to secure funding for projects like the one at Monroe Regional.
"Earmarks, or congressional initiatives, are things that some people criticize us about," said Alexander, R-Quitman, who spoke Tuesday at a Monroe Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
"Some question the need of earmarks," Alexander said. "I believe it is the earmarkers who sometimes are bad and not the earmarks themselves."
"Now we have laws out there to punish men and women who abuse this system and take advantage of the ability to draw down federal money," Alexander explained. "If they abuse it and get some kickbacks in some way, then we have a system to punish them. We have some sitting in jail today because they abused the system, but we don't need to reject a system that has worked quite well for 230 years just because some have abused that system."
Alexander has been criticized lately for voting against initiatives backed by President Obama such as the federal stimulus package and the budget while taking credit for earmarks that were made possible because of the legislation.
"They think that's hypocritical," Alexander said. "To me, hypocrisy would be if I voted for a bill that I didn't believe in just to protect some of the earmark requests in that bill."
"To say I am not going to vote for that budget because it is overly aggressive, knowing that it might jeopardize some of the projects I would like to see funded … that's not hypocrisy," Alexander continued. "But when a budget passes, as it did two weeks ago, the decision has been made to spend that amount of money. It would be malfeasance to not go after as much as I could for the state of Louisiana and the 5th congressional district."
Alexander said his requests found in President Obama's $3.5 trillion budget are legitimate requests that have been needed for this area for some time.
"These are not projects that were just pulled out of the air," he said.
"We've been talking about the need for a new (airport) terminal ever since I've been in office," Alexander said. "I think we ought to inject into our state and our communities as much as we can to encourage economic development."
"If it's worth anything to the state or northeast Louisiana, I am for it," he added.
Alexander would rather have taxpayers' money remain in states in which the money originated and not sent to Washington to be distributed elsewhere by Congress.
"I think it ought to remain at the local level and you ought to be able to decide what projects you need on your own," Alexander said. "But, as long as Washington extracts a certain amount of money from your pocketbooks, then we are charged with bringing as much of it back as we can."