- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 8, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The barn door is open and the piling on of pork has begun as every Tom, Dick, state and county lines up to the congressional trough asking for its own version of a federal bailout.

Tuesday, fast-growing and well-to-do Loudoun County joined a growing list of localities asking for a piece of the stimulus pie. In a letter to Democratic Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott York cited an inability to balance the budget for its $744 million request. “We simply do not have the kind of economic stimulus needed at this time,” he wrote. The county’s to-do list allocates the bulk of the money toward transportation and schools. (Who can turn down students, right?) It is a familiar tune being sung ‘round the country, yet many states and counties (which we’ve cited in previous editorials) have made adjustments to the economic downturn without asking Uncle Sam for one red cent.

Among the region’s fastest growing counties, Loudoun’s success has become a double-edged sword. It has been hit hard by foreclosures - up 800 percent in 2006-07. Yet we find it hard to make a case for dire straits when the county’s request also includes: $12.5 million for parks, recreation and culture (whatever that means); $10 million for “community development;” and $14. 8 million for storm water replacement. In addition, the state of Virginia just recently increased toll and railway fees for counties including Loudoun, citing - you guessed it - lost revenue and transportation costs. So not only are residents currently paying some of the highest property taxes, had their toll and rail fees increased, and seen increases in their utility costs, but they are now expected to pay for their neighbors’ foreclosures, rebates for those who don’t pay income taxes, and fiscal mismanagement by private-sector companies through another stimulus package?

While vowing to work in a bipartisan fashion with the new administration and Democratic Congress, Republicans are nonetheless readying for “spirited opposition” when it comes to protecting taxpayers’ pocketbooks over political pet projects. Republican House Leader John Boehner has made it clear: He’ll issue a resounding “no” to attempts to pile on to the economic recovery package. “[I]t should be free from special-interest earmarks. This is the taxpayers’ money, and they deserve to know their hard-earned tax dollars aren’t being wasted,” Mr. Boehner said.

So just what was Loudoun County thinking when it came up with this cockamamie idea? According to Loudoun Extra magazine, “The National Association of Counties through the Virginia Association of Counties asked that localities draw up these project lists, which were also collectively shared with President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team as part of a general survey.” In other words, throw it out there and see what sticks.

Ironically, the counties may be putting the cart before the horse: As Mr. Obama insisted yesterday (and Mr. Webb’s office tells us he supports), he will “ban all earmarks” in the recovery package. A promise we’ll be keeping an eye on.

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