All of Minnesota’s members of Congress have released their earmark requests – except for Reps. Michele Bachmann, John Kline and Erik Paulsen, who have joined the Republican ban on such funding measures. But in one case, district needs are being met through a neighboring representative’s efforts: DFL Rep. Betty McCollum has made several earmark requests on behalf of projects inside Kline’s district.
Dakota County is requesting $500,000 for a program called the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. The program helps low-risk juvenile offenders by diverting them from lockup by offering home monitoring, mental health services and “restorative justice programs.”
It was requested by Dakota County administration in Hastings, a city within Kline’s district. In fact, the majority of Dakota County is within the 2nd Congressional District, with the exception of a sliver of the county near the Mississippi River, which is in McCollum’s district.
McCollum also requested a $650,000 earmark for the city of Eagan, which is also in Kline’s district, to purchase energy-efficient fire trucks for use in Eagan and Inver Grove Heights.
McCollum requested the earmarks because they will benefit residents in her district, even if the money is going to Kline’s, said spokesperson Maria Reppas.
Of the firetruck request, Reppas said, “Given the close proximity of this project – right outside of the Congresswoman’s District – this earmark request will benefit residents in both districts.”
Likewise, because the northern tip of Dakota County is within McCollum’s district, “this county-wide juvenile justice program will benefit both the Second and Fourth Congressional District residents,” she added.
Kline’s office did not return a request for comment about the projects being funded in his district, but McCollum’s office did express some disappointment that he wasn’t involved in the process.
“Congressman Kline’s refusal to assist in securing federal funds for these important community projects is unfortunate,” Reppas said. “By not taking earmarks, he’s only depriving Minnesota tax payers from getting a portion of their fair share of government services.”
“This is a double penalty because not only are residents not receiving government benefits, but if they want to take advantage of government support they have to pay for it again,” she added.
An Eagan city employee couldn’t provide the Minnesota Independent with information on whether the city approached Kline about the earmark before going to McCollum since the staffer charged with negotiating the earmark is on vacation for the week. However, the city says Kline’s office has been made aware of the request.
The Freedom Foundation of Minnesota ranked Eagan’s firetruck request as Minnesota’s second-worst earmark. Its press release asked, “Green Hybrid Fire Trucks – When the fire alarm goes off, does it really matter if the fire truck consumes less fuel while idling at potentially life and death calls?”
Overall, Minnesota’s congressional earmarks were not noteworthy. Still, in the 1st Congressional District, Rep. Tim Walz implemented a unique strategy in deciding which projects are worthy of such funding; his office used an online ranking system to get input from his constituents, according to Bluestem Prairie.
“We cannot fund all of these projects,” Walz said in a March press release, “so I am counting on southern Minnesotans to take some ownership of the important decisions I will soon be making on their behalf.”
Similarly, Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce encouraged its members to rate the projects.
Here are the full amounts of earmark requests. Click on each member’s name to view their full list of earmarks.
Keith Ellison: $175,200,000
Tim Walz: $114,291,688.
Jim Oberstar: $79,965,625
Betty McCollum: $46,500,000
Collin Peterson: $27,310,000