This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
WASHINGTON - Residents of Park City and Centerfield may suffer from a lack of drinking water. The Utah Transit Authority will have to wait longer for $80 million for commuter rail construction. And some research efforts at Utah State University will be hampered.
Various organizations in Utah will go wanting after Congress punted on passing nearly all of its spending bills. Nine of the 11 bills the GOP-controlled Congress needed to pass to fund the government didn't get approved this past session, leaving thousands of special-interest projects stranded.
Making the situation worse, advocates say, is that Democrats taking control in January plan to hold off on passing the bills until the fiscal 2008 budget comes up for a vote next summer or fall.
For Utah, that means losing out on nearly $300 million the state's federal delegation had inserted into spending bills. The failed earmarks ranged from $100,000 for dental equipment for the Enterprise Valley Medical Clinic to $40 million for the Central Utah Project.
"It ends up hurting us because we have projects we want to move forward on," says Chris Finlinson, a spokesman for CUP, which was set up to bring water from eastern Utah to the populous Wasatch Front. "It does put us in a pinch, but we're going to wait and see what happens."
Boosters of other jilted projects are more blunt about how they'll suffer.
Centerfield, in south-central Utah, has about 1,100 residents and is running out of drinking water. The town's plans to build a new water-treatment plant will have to wait because of the delay in securing $1.5 million from the federal government.
"It's a big concern for me," Mayor Darwin Jensen says. "There's no way the town can come up with that kind of financing."
Others, however, are glad Congress didn't fork over billions for what they consider pork projects. Earmarks, the term Washington pundits gave to line-item funding requests by lawmakers, have come under fire lately as part of the larger theme of Capitol corruption.
The number of earmarks has exploded during the last decade, increasing from slightly more than 1,400 to nearly 14,000, according to Citizens Against Government Waste.
The so-called Bridge to Nowhere, actually a proposal for two bridges in rural Alaska with a combined price tag of $454 million, became the symbol of the problem.
"People are crying for earmark reform and an end to pork barrel spending, and now they're crying because they aren't getting earmarks," says David Williams, vice president of Citizens Against Government Waste. "They can't have it both ways."
Last year's earmarks totaled about $29 billion, Williams says, of which Utah got about $98 million.
Citizens "should really think about the other projects across America they aren't paying for either," Williams says, citing a teapot museum in North Carolina as an example.
It was the Republican-controlled Congress that failed to pass the nine spending bills this year. But Sen. Bob Bennett, Utah's member on the Appropriations Committee, says the stalled funding now is on Democrats' shoulders.
"Unfortunately, if the Democrats go ahead with their current plan, many of these projects would not receive funding already approved by the committee in this last session," says Bennett spokeswoman Emily Christensen.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said the earmark process has been abused and needs to be fixed, but adds that Utah has seen real benefits, too.
"These requests are worthy, important projects," he said.
Hatch will get no argument from officials at Utah State University, which partially relies on earmarks for its research projects.
"Some very urgent priorities and initiatives will be slowed down by as much as a year" because of the spending-bill abandonment, says Brent Miller, the university's vice president for research.
The Utah Transit Authority, which is in the middle of constructing a commuter rail line between Ogden and Salt Lake City, may face higher finance costs because of the delay in getting $80 million from the Department of Transportation.
The funding will eventually come, explained UTA spokesman Justin Jones, because the project already has the approval of the federal department.
"It's something that's commonplace and has happened in the past," he added. "We're comfortable moving ahead with the commuter [line]."
The delay will hurt Park City, though, which is seeking $500,000 to help pipe in more water. City spokesman Myles Rademan says the request wasn't frivolous and the city may have to seek alternative funds.
"I don't think we can really wait," he says. "We're up against it."