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Upstate innovation earmarks laid to rest

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Sorry, America. Congress says the pork store is closed for business.

With a renewed Republican commitment to fight them, earmarks are in the news again.

As the Innovation Trail's Daniel Robison noted this morning, the Senate walked away from a catch-all spending bill that had over 6,700 of the pet projects in it last week.

And though they represent less than 1 percent of the entire spending bill, they really rankle fiscal conservatives and small government types.

On today's Morning Edition, NPR had a great piece that looked at the central dilemma of earmarks: What's a shameless pork project to some is a sound investment to others.

NPR's Greg Allen looked at the issue through the lens of several projects in Florida.

Don't you wish someone could do that for upstate New York?

As you've probably learned by now, the innovation economy gets a lot of government support. Much of it comes from the state, but a good chunk also comes from federal coffers.

So it's no surprise that out of the 351 earmarks set aside for New York, a fair number of them were for the type of economic development efforts that we cover all the time.

(Taxpayers for Common Sense compiled a spreadsheet of all the earmarks from the failed omnibus spending bill. You can check it out here.)

Below are just a few of the projects in the region that will be dealing with less federal funding.

Do they seem like wasteful pet projects or something that Your Taxpayer Dollars should get behind? You decide (and let us know in the comments).

A sampling of upstate earmarks

Western New York alone will not be getting $34 million in earmarks, according to Congresswoman Louise Slaughter.

For the state as a whole, that figure is over $186 million. That number would be bigger if you included earmarks co-sponsored across state lines.

As Daniel reported, one of the more embarrassing upstate earmark fails was over a $3.6 million line item for a new cyclotron at the University at Buffalo. Long story short, UB officials and Slaughter thought the money was a done deal and hosted a press conference touting the development. It wasn't, UB is scrambling and Slaughter is mad. Oops.

But that wasn't the biggest New York earmark to fall through. That distinction belongs to the $9.5 million that was supposed to go toward a facility at Niagara Air Reserve Station for taking care of these bad boys.

A "U.S. Agricultural Research Service facility" in Geneva, N.Y. won't be getting the $3.65 million that Congressman Maurice Hinchey and former Congressman Mike Arcuri set aside for it.

There were earmarks for three Empire Corridor high-speed rail projects that totaled more than $1.2 million.

The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus was in line for a million dollar's worth of streetscape and infrastructure improvements

Research on wireless sensors for wind turbine blades that's going on at the Smart System Technology & Commercialization Center (née Infotonics) in Canandaigua won't be getting its million dollar earmark.

The Rochester Institute of Technology is also taking a hit. They had a $500,000 earmark for work on remote sensing technology for the Department of Homeland Security.

One of the smallest earmarks to be axed: $35,000 for "New York State Solar Electric Incentive Programs."

And the list goes on and on.

WXXI/Finger Lakes reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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