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Spending bill includes millions for Golden Triangle


Staff and Wire Reports



The federal omnibus spending bill President Obama approved Wednesday includes about $34 million for research programs at Mississippi State University, $1.4 million to extend the runway at Golden Triangle Regional Airport and $950,000 to improve the Lowndes County road by the Severstal steel mill. 


There''s also $260,000 for wastewater structures in west Lowndes County, $285,000 for Mississippi University for Women and $20 million to build barge mooring cells on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. 


The money is part of the long-delayed $410 billion appropriations Congress passed this week for funding federal government agencies this fiscal year. 


"The FY 2009 funding that will be directed to Mississippi will do much to help our state recover from the economic downturn we face," U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran said in a statement issued by his office. 


It''s in addition to the special $787 billion economic stimulus package enacted last month, which sends about $2.8 billion to Mississippi. 


Cochran, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, had a key role in steering millions of dollars to Mississippi. 


"With these funds we will be able to continue the important work of improving our state''s infrastructure, enhancing quality of health care and education and creating an environment to attract new businesses," he said. 


The U.S. Senate passed the federal spending bill Tuesday on a 62-35 vote. Cochran and Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi were among only eight Republicans voting for the legislation pushed by Democrats; 32 Republicans opposed it. 


The bill was initiated two weeks ago in the U.S. House of Representatives, which passed it on a 245-178 vote. U.S. Rep. Travis Childers of Mississippi''s 1st Congressional District was among only 20 Democrats voting against the bill. 


"Many of the omnibus-funded programs are valid. However, there is overall too much unnecessary spending included in the bill, and the government cannot afford to spend without discipline or concern for the dire state of our economy," Childers said in a statement issued by his office 


A nonpartisan budget watchdog group estimates Mississippi is among the big winners when it comes to getting congressional funds. 


Taxpayers for Common Sense estimates that both Cochran and Wicker sit atop the heap for getting earmarks, the controversial practice of lawmakers steering money to pet projects. 


The group says Cochran is the congressional champion with $437.7 million in earmarks brought to the state both alone and in combination with lawmakers from other states. Wicker is No. 2 on the list at $391 million. 


Mississippi is third overall in earmarks, the group''s research shows, with a total of $325 million, a figure that doesn''t include multistate funding. 


"This is where Mississippi is always impressive," said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense. 


Mississippi trails much larger California ($568.7 million) and Texas ($370 million) overall, but swamps them when earmarks are figured on a per capita basis. Mississippi is fourth in the country with $110.59 per resident accrued in earmarks. Alaska remains No. 1 at $209.71 per resident. 


Overall, the group estimates there are $7.7 billion in earmarks in the $410 billion spending plan. 


Ellis said the group uses Congress'' own definition of an earmark to reach its conclusions. But Margaret McPhillips, a spokeswoman for Cochran, said it''s impossible to tell how much money legislators steered toward the state in earmarks because the definition is debatable. 


Wicker said he still feels the government spends too much money, but does not favor taking the right to choose what projects are approved away from Congress. 


Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum -- Cochran''s former chief of staff -- has pointed to the importance of getting federal research dollars to the university. "We''re a major part of growing and expanding the Mississippi economy," Keenum said. 


Funds coming to the Golden Triangle from the federal spending bill include: 




  • $3.1 million to construct a poultry science research facility at Mississippi State University. 


  • $6.5 million to continue construction of the MSU Research, Technology and Economic Development Park. 


  • $4.5 million to MSU to more effectively link local, state, regional and national organizations concerned with Northern Gulf wetlands issues and management. 


  • $1.5 million for knowledge-based data integration and intelligence at MSU. Funding will be used to aid law enforcement by linking large amounts of data within Mississippi''s law enforcement agencies and provide the most accurate and up-to-date information. 


  • $2.5 million for MSU''s Cyber Crime Initiative and National Consortium for Digital Forensics Training. Funding will enable the continued training of state and local law enforcement and judicial authorities in digital forensics/computer crime investigation. 


  • $10.4 million for the Sustainable Energy Research Center at MSU. 


  • $3.8 million for the Institute for Clean Energy Technology, a cooperative research agreement between the Department of Energy and MSU. 


  • $20.8 million to construct mooring cells for barges along the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. 


  • $570,000 for MSU for convergence of scientists and entrepreneurs to expedite commercialization. 


  • $350,000 for the Mississippi State University Natural Resources Program. 


  • $100,000 for a Save America''s Treasures grant to the West Point historic post office. 


  • $260,000 to West Lowndes County for wastewater infrastructure. 


  • $381,000 for the Mississippi Integrated Workforce Performance System at MSU. 


  • $285,000 for enhancing K-12 science and math preparation at MSU. 


  • $285,000 for the Community Partnership for Learning at Mississippi University for Women. 


  • $1.4 million to extend the runway at Golden Triangle Regional Airport to allow access by larger aircraft. 


  • $950,000 for Artesia Road to provide greater access to the Severstal plant and future industry around Golden Triangle Regional Airport. 


  • $950,000 for road improvements to provide greater access to the Navistar military armored vehicle manufacturing plant in West Point. 


  • $950,000 for an interchange to provide greater access from the south to MSU. 





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Reader Comments

Article Comment Bruce Wyrick commented at 3/12/2009 3:19:00 PM:

While many will congratuate the two senators from MS, I must say I;m very disappointed in them both. At a time of great recession and on the heels of two losses by the republicans, our senators who claim to be conservatives act like spending liberals. While these may be worthy projects this is not the time to spend like a drunken sailor. I for one will remember and hope we get true conservatives to represent us in the senate


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