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Texas delegation requests close to $2 billion in funding request ‘earmarks’

Texas delegation requests close to $2 billion in funding request ‘earmarks’

May 7, 2021
Click here to view original web page at www.dallasnews.com

An American Airlines plane makes its way towards the runway before taking off at DFW International Airport on Monday, November 16, 2020. Earmarks are back. The congressional practice of members essentially hand-picking projects was banned from Congress in the early 2000′s after it became synonymous with “pork barrel” legislation. […]

Click here to view original web page at www.dallasnews.com


An American Airlines plane makes its way towards the runway before taking off at DFW International Airport on Monday, November 16, 2020.
An American Airlines plane makes its way towards the runway before taking off at DFW International Airport on Monday, November 16, 2020.

Earmarks are back.

The congressional practice of members essentially hand-picking projects was banned from Congress in the early 2000′s after it became synonymous with “pork barrel” legislation. But it’s been given another chance under a new system.

Twenty-one members from Texas’ 35-member Congressional delegation — the 6th Congressional District in North Texas currently is open — requested a total of close to $2 billion for the 2022 fiscal year. Every Texas Democrat and eight Texas Republicans — Reps. Dan Crenshaw of Houston, August Pfluger of San Angelo, Pete Sessions of Waco, Troy Nehls of Richmond, John Carter of Round Rock, Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Michael Cloud of Victoria and Tony Gonzales of San Antonio — made requests.

Earmarks for The House Appropriations Committee are now dubbed “community project funding,” while earmarks for the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure are called “member designated projects.”

Details of the requests are posted on the websites of the House Appropriations Committee and the lawmakers themselves. Member designated projects have not yet been posted on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s website.

Earmarks were banned in 2011, after they became tarnished by corruption when four members went to jail for handing out federal money in return for personal favors. Members were “bringing home the bacon” by asking for thousands of federal dollars for projects that were criticized for being unnecessary, such as Alaska’s famous “bridge to nowhere,” which would have connected the small city of Ketchikan to a small airport on a nearby island racking up costs close to $450 million.

Republican Rep. Kay Granger’s $110 million Trinity River Vision project in Fort Worth was also criticized as pork in the early 2000′s. She earmarked the project when she couldn’t get it authorized in a previous bill the House and Senate couldn’t come to agreement on.

Granger is now the senior Republican on the Appropriations Committee -- and the chairwoman if the GOP regains the majority in the 2022 midterms. She made no funding requests, and did not respond to a request for comment.

She has advocated to bring back the practice of earmarks.

Deficit hawks disparage the earmarking process as unnecessary government spending. Both Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz signed a letter in April declaring it “an inherently wasteful spending practice that is prone to serious abuse.”

Some Texas Republicans in the House, including Reps. Chip Roy of Austin, Lance Gooden of Terrell and Van Taylor of Plano have pledged not to request earmarks.

Putting transparency in the process

In order to prevent pork from making it to Congress, both the reformed Appropriations Committee’s community project funding and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s member designated projects have steps in place to improve transparency for the 2022 fiscal year.

Members are required to put all requests online for both programs, and members must also certify that they and their immediate family members have no financial interest in the funding. The requests are subject to an audit by the Government Accountability Office. Only non-profit and state and local government grantees are allowed for the community project funding requests.

Rep. Colin Allred, D-Dallas hopes that other representatives will add an additional step in the community project funding process — establishing an independent committee of community leaders to review project requests.

“I wanted to add another layer on top of that improved process that I thought may be a model for how this could be considered… have a committee approach that takes a look at a range of projects and says: We think collectively, based on our experience, working and leading the community, that these are the projects that have the best chance of creating jobs and serving the community,” Allred said in an interview with The Dallas Morning News.

Allred’s committee consisted of community leaders from different parts of the community, including the U.S. India Chamber of Commerce, the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce and Big Thought Dallas, an organization that works with youth in marginalized communities.

Van Duyne, a Republican from Irving, assembled a board of local leaders by inviting mayors and state legislators to discuss potential projects.

“There were two buckets of funding that we were able to advocate for, and one is through the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which the Congresswoman is a part of,” said Van Duyne’s legislative director, Ryan Dilworth. “...Those projects come out of the Highway Trust Fund. And so that’s where that buck of money is able to come from. And then below that is the Appropriations Committee request which again was a very transportation-heavy request.”

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, has prior experience with earmarks before the ban in 2011, said spokesman Zachary Mitchiner.

“Over the past several weeks, she has worked closely and tirelessly with constituents, stakeholders, and local officials to determine the needs of communities across the district, and has selected those which she believes will have the greatest impact on TX-30 and North Texas as a whole,” Mitchiner said in a statement.

Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, similarly partnered with “local leaders, constituents and stakeholders across North Texas to select projects that will give communities the resources they need to help overcome the challenges that they face,” his spokeswoman Emily Druckman said in a statement.

“Members of the Texas Congressional delegation want to help the communities that they serve, especially during a deadly pandemic that has hurt the lives and livelihoods of so many Texans,” Druckman said. “The bipartisan Community Project Funding process allows them to directly and transparently collaborate with local leaders to recommend federal investments that prioritize the needs of North Texas and create jobs in the communities we represent.”

Potential spoils

Members overlapped on some funding requests, with some of the big-ticket projects including $98 million for the Brute Force Electric Central Utility Plant to improve Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport’s heating and cooling ability and $135.9 million to replace four of DFW Airport’s deficient existing flyover ramps with new bridges, both of which Allred and Van Duyne requested.

Veasey and Van Duyne both requested $16.7 million for a new snow and ice removal equipment storage facility for DFW Airport.

Allred, Veasey and Johnson all requested from $850,000-$1 million to go to the Mental Health Innovation Center at the Children’s Health System of Texas.

Having multiple members putting their requests behind specific projects will probably help the case for these projects, Allred said, but still nothing is certain.

“Ultimately, the committee is going to make the final decision based on the criteria that they’ve given us — their own decision making process and the budget and all of those things,” Allred said. “They’re gonna be the ones who actually make the final decision, so we’re basically trying to put our best foot forward here.”

Below are the Dallas-Fort Worth members’ funding requests, which can also be found on their websites:

Community Project Funds:

Brute Force Electric Central Utility Plant

Amount Requested: $98,000,000

Recipient(s): Dallas Fort Worth International (DFW) Airport, 2400 Aviation Dr.

Center for Applied Research in Mobility and Autonomy (CARMA)

Amount Requested: $1,000,000

Recipient(s): The University of Texas at Dallas

Children’s Health System of Texas (CHST) Pediatric Mental Health Innovation Center

Amount Requested: $850,000

Recipient(s): Children’s Health System of Texas (CHST)

Children’s Health System of Texas (CHST) Pediatric Mental Health Staff

Amount Requested: $860,000

Recipient(s): Children’s Health System of Texas (CHST)

COVID-19 Student Impact Project

Amount Requested: $400,000

Recipient(s): The University of Texas at Dallas

DFW Airport Flyover Bridge Replacement and Conversion Project

Amount Requested: $135,900,000

Recipient(s): Dallas Fort Worth International (DFW) Airport

Learning Loss Program for Underserved Students

Amount Requested: $890,000

Recipient(s): Southern Methodist University

Resource Center Senior Housing

Amount Requested: $1,000,000

Recipient(s): Resource Center of Dallas, Inc.

Southern Methodist University Human Trafficking Project

Amount Requested: $1,187,000

Recipient(s): Southern Methodist University

UTSW Center for Implementation Science, School of Public Health

Amount Requested: $1,000,000

Recipient(s): University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Member Designated Projects

DART Mobile Data Terminals System Upgrade/ Throughout DART service area

Amount requested: $2,200,000

Recipient(s): Dallas Area Rapid Transit

Re-establish Northwest Drive Direct Access to IH 635/ IH 30 at Northwest Drive in Mesquite, TX

Amount requested: $10,000,000

Recipient(s): City of Mesquite

The I-35 Innovative Corridor Project/ I-35 corridor from the port of entry at Laredo through the International Inland Port of Dallas and the AllianceTexas Inland Port in Fort Worth to the Texas/Oklahoma border

Amount requested: $7,500,000

Recipient(s): Texas A&M Transportation Institute

Community Project Funds:

Neighborhood Air Quality Pilot Project

Amount requested: $1,065,000

Recipient(s): City of Dallas

Elevated Water Storage Tank

Amount requested: $2,800,000

Recipient(s): City of Glenn Heights

City of Wilmer Force 16-inch Force Main replacement

Amount requested: $4,880,000

Recipient(s): City of Wilmer

Partnership for Equity, Access, and Training

Amount requested: $100,000

Recipient(s): Martin Luther King, Jr. Family Clinic

Establishment of the Center for Implementation Science (CIS) within the new School of Public Health at UT Southwestern

Amount requested: $800,000

Recipient(s): University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Pediatric Mental Health Innovation Center at Children’s Health

Amount requested: $890,000

Recipient(s)Children’s Health System of Texas,

Parkland Immunization Van

Amount requested: $267,398

Recipient(s): Dallas County Hospital District d/b/a Parkland Health & Hospital System

Lancaster Regional Airport Taxiway Relocation

Amount requested: $5,700,000

Recipient(s): City of Lancaster

Member Designated Projects

Dallas Vision Zero Implementation

Amounted requested: $10,000,000

Recipient(s): City of Dallas

East Grand Avenue (SH-78) Corridor Study & Infrastructure Improvements

Amounted requested: $1,300,000

Recipient(s): City of Dallas

Danieldale Road (IIPOD Access)

Amounted requested: $13,600,000

Recipient(s): City of Dallas

Kiestwood Trail Wi-Fi and Lighting Pilot Project

Amounted requested: $1,600,000

Recipient(s): City of Dallas

Greater Downtown Dallas Master Plan

Amounted requested: $1,600,000

Recipient(s): City of Dallas

Digital Divide – Traffic Signals & Streetlights

Amounted requested: $16,000,000

Recipient(s): City of Dallas

Bear Creek Nature Park Pedestrian and Bike Trail Revitalization

Amounted requested: 1,800,000

Recipient(s): City of Lancaster

Bear Creek Road Improvement Project

Amounted requested: $3,329,417

Recipient(s): City of Glenn Heights

Southern Gateway Park

Amounted requested: $40,000,000

Recipient(s): North Central Texas Council of Governments

East Dallas Bus and Maintenance Facility Renovation

Amount requested: $891,992

Recipient(s): Dallas Area Rapid Transit

Community Project Funding:

Brute Force Electric Central Utility Plant

Amount requested: $98,000,000

Recipient(s): DFW Airport

Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting Station Consolidation

Amount requested: $83,900,000

Recipient(s): DFW Airport

New Snow and Ice Removal Equipment Storage Facility at DFW Airport

Amount requested: $16,700,000

Recipient(s): DFW Airport

DFW Airport Flyover Bridge Replacement and Conversion Project

Amount requested: $135,900,000

Recipient(s): DFW Airport

North White Chapel Boulevard Crossing at Kirkwood Branch Improvements

Amount requested: $4,100,000

Recipient(s): City of Southlake, Texas

West Continental Boulevard and South Peytonville Avenue Intersection Improvements

Amount requested: $1,350,000

Recipient(s): City of Southlake, Texas

Broadway Reconstruction from Whitlock Lane to Belt Line Road and Construction of Hike/Bike Trail along section

Amount requested: $5,925,000

Recipient(s): City of Carrollton, Texas

Broadway Reconstruction from Jackson Rd to Whitlock Lane and Construction of Hike/Bike Trail along section

Amount requested: $3,230,000

Recipient(s): City of Carrollton, Texas

Member Designated Projects:

FM 1709 and Pearson Lane Intersection Improvements

Amount requested: $1,125,000

Recipient(s): City of Southlake

Davis Blvd (FM 1938) and Continental Blvd

Amount requested: $1,900,000

Recipient(s): City of Southlake

DART Silver Line Track Improvement Project

Amount requested: $6,363,000

Recipient(s): Dallas Area Rapid Transit

Community Project Funding:

Mental Health Provider Coverage

Amount Requested: $1,000,000

Recipient(s): Children’s Health System of Texas

Pediatric Mental Health Innovation Center at Children’s Health

Amount Requested: $1,000,000

Recipient(s): Children’s Health System of Texas

Dallas Area Rapid Transit Smart Bus Technology

Amount Requested: $833,000

Recipient(s): Dallas Area Rapid Transit

City of Everman Youth Revitalization Programs

Amount Requested: $414,000

Recipient(s): City of Everman

Hensley Field Reuse and Redevelopment Plan

Amount Requested: $5,000,000

Recipient(s): City of Dallas

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) project

Amount Requested: $100,000

Recipient(s): United Way of Tarrant County

Texas Veterans Network

Amount Requested: $25,000

Recipient(s): United Way of Tarrant County

Transform 1012 N. Main St.

Amount Requested: $3,000,000

Recipient(s): The Welman Project

Revitalization of Eastside YMCA

Amount Requested: $2,430,055

Recipient(s): YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth

New Snow and Ice Removal Equipment Storage Facility at DFW Airport

Amount Requested: $12,000,000

Recipient(s): Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport

Member Designated Projects

Retrofitting 60% of the existing metal-halide light fixtures used at DART’s light-rail stations and transit centers with new, state-of-the-art LED fixtures at various DART locations across the service area, administered through the DART headquarters at 1401 Pacific Ave, Dallas, TX 75202

Amount requested: $2,600,000

Recipient(s): Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART)

Trinity Lakes Station near Trinity Blvd and I-820 in Fort Worth, TX.

Amount requested: $11,962,800

Recipient(s): Fort Worth Transportation Authority (“Trinity Metro”)

Grove Street Intermodal Campus Rehabilitation

Amount requested: $3,250,000

Recipient(s): Fort Worth Transportation Authority (“Trinity Metro”)

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