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MU falls behind in funds

With Boehner avoiding earmarks, area schools see decrease in monies

By Rachel Perron
On April 1, 2008

When it comes to federal project funding, local colleges and universities in the tri-state area are millions of dollars ahead of Miami University.

Miami falls in Rep. John Boehner's (R-West Chester) district. Boehner, who is also the minority leader, has voiced his opposition to earmarks.

According to Bryan Marshall, political science professor and the department's congressional specialist, an earmark is a provision in legislation, requested by a member of Congress that awards funds to a project (or "pet project") sponsored by that member.

"(Earmarks) are an effective way that members can go get a piece of the pork and target it at their home district," Marshall said.

Marshall said that earmarks are also a way politicians can increase their popularity among voters.

If so, then Rep. Geoff Davis (R-Hebron), and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) must be very popular among Kentuckians right now; they sponsored five projects for Northern Kentucky University, which received a total of $1.5 million in earmark funding-the most of any nearby university.

Although earmarks make up less than one percent of the federal budget, Marshall said, fiscal conservatives like Boehner see them as wasteful pork-barrel spending.

Boehner represents Ohio's 8th district, which is made up of Butler, Montgomery, Darker, Mercer, Miami and Preble counties.

The University of Cincinnati is also located in Boehner's district, and like Miami it received no earmarks this year.

"Congressmen Boehner has never supported earmarks and has made that clear," said Jessica Towhey, Boehner's press secretary. "He has never requested and never accepted an earmark."

Since Boehner has a policy against earmarks, Miami now has to ask congressmen in other districts to sponsor their projects, said Randi Thomas, director of institutional relations at Miami.

However, Thomas said asking for money from other congressmen is a tricky challenge for Miami since congressmen would rather support universities from their own district.

"The projects we put forward are partnerships, which benefit not only the university but the state of Ohio and the community," Thomas said.

Thomas said that the two projects Miami has requested funding for next year are two such partnerships. One request will fund research on the diagnosis of childhood diseases, which Michael Kennedy, an eminent scholar and professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Miami, is conducting along with childrens' hospitals in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus. The other project involves digitizing Miami's collection of McGuffey Readers, giving citizens across Ohio access to the works.

Though he opposes earmarks, Towhey said Boehner supports competitive grants since they illustrate that a particular project has merit. Towhey said Boehner writes letters of support for organizations that frequently apply for these competitive grants.

However, Boehner's camp has done a lot for the university, Thomas said, particularly in cases where Miami has used the recommendations of elected officials in its applications for grants.

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