March 11, 2009

C.U. Awaits Word On Congressional Earmark Projects

Print More

Congress passed the $409.6 billion omnibus appropriations bill last night, approving a number of earmarked spending projects that will be attached to next year’s fiscal budget. The bill — which President Barack Obama is expected to sign into law today, according to Politico — allocates a number of earmarks for Cornell research.
Among them, Cornell hopes receive $2.2 million to begin construction on a Grape Genetics Research Center in Geneva. As of last night, however, the electronic system that charts which projects are included in the bill had not been updated, according to Stephen Johnson, Cornell’s vice president for government and community relations.
“We’re hopeful that [the projects] are in there, but reluctant to say until we can verify,” he said.
The proposed Grape Genetics Research Center has come under fire by opponents of the omnibus bill, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who ranked the center fourth on his list of the most unnecessary pork barrel spending projects. However, the University stood by its commitment to the center in a report distributed to the Board of Trustees on Friday.
Other money earmarked in the omnibus may allow Cornell to work on projects related to computational agriculture, environmental research, food safety, human nutrition, beef cattle genetic evaluation and livestock and dairy policy.
Though some members of the Board of Trustees expressed hesitancy to accept earmarked funds at the Board’s subcommittee meeting on government and community affairs Friday, the University has continued to take earmarks for projects under its current policy, which states that Cornell can accept funds when there is a lack of peer review or competitive mechanism to receive funds, as is the case with the United States Department of Agriculture.
The Senate passed the bill by a vote of 62-35 last night, while the House cleared the bill about two weeks ago.