As earmarks return, Michigan senators request $65M for projects across state

By: - July 9, 2021 4:32 am

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U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) requested a joint total of over $65 million of “congressionally directed spending” be inserted into appropriations bills for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 to fund numerous projects across the state of Michigan. 

The Energy and Water Development subcommittee had the first deadline for earmark requests on June 16. Members of the senate are required to disclose their requests 15 days after submitting them. The first disclosures were published last Friday and other committee’s submissions have since been posted, as well. 

U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters at the NAACP dinner | Andrew Roth

Peters has made his requests for funding from the Energy and Water Development, Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies, Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, and Financial Services and General Government committees. The total amount he requested was over $14 million for 18 projects. Peters has requested earmarks from three other committees, however, those submissions have not been made public yet. 

Stabenow has disclosed her requests from the same committees as Peters, requesting funding for 29 projects and over $50 million.

Stabenow requested the most funding for a project titled, “Ann Arbor Community Solar – Community Benefit Project,” which would create a solar panel field on a capped landfill in Ann Arbor. The project is intended to create more jobs for Michiganders while transitioning the state to cleaner energy. Stabenow requested $25 million for the project.

In a statement to the Advance, Stabenow said the congressionally directed spending requests on various community projects will help to address the needs of communities across Michigan.

“These community projects reflect the innovation and commitment of local governments, colleges, universities and nonprofit organizations in Michigan to meet important needs and create good paying jobs in communities across the state.” Stabenow said.

The most Peters requested for a single project was over $2.8 million for a Great Lakes Community Wharf in the Port of Muskegon. The project would convert 8.5 acres in Muskegon’s waterfront to become a multi-purpose commercial wharf, waterfront park and business center. Sen. Stabenow also requested $1 million for the project.

Caroline Stonecipher, a spokesperson for Peters’ office, said the congressionally directed spending requests will better the lives of Michiganders from various parts of the state.

“Senator Peters’ priority remains fighting for Michigan and making our state an even better place to live, work and raise a family,” the Stonecipher said. “That’s why he accepted requests for high-impact public projects in Michigan from public or government entities, including state-funded universities, that can benefit from assistance from the federal government.”

Both senators requested funds for nine other of the same projects across the state.

The most joint funding requested by the two Michigan senators was for an Ann Arbor Neighborhood Resilience Hub that would construct a facility to support residents and resource distribution in case of a natural hazard event. Peters requested $2 million for the project and Stabenow requested $2.77 million for a total of over $4.77 million.

Large funding requests made by the senators were also made for the city of Detroit, including a project for a hydrokinetic energy harvester and an expungement program. The expungement program, Project Clean Slate, will allow Detroit residents who are eligible for expungement to receive paralegal and attorney support. Both senators requested roughly $1.5 million for the project.

Another Detroit program was written into funding requests made by Stabenow and Peters. The program is dubbed Detroit Ceasefire, a community outreach program aiming to coordinate law enforcement and social services to reduce violence in the city. The project could receive a joint $873,368 if approved by the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies committee to expand the capacity of the team. Sen. Peters requested $320,368 and Sen. Stabenow requested $553,000 for the project.

Rudy Harper, the Detroit Police Department second deputy chief, said in a statement to the Michigan Advance that the Ceasefire program has been a major tool in reducing violence in the city.

“Over the years, we have built strong bonds with community organizations to reduce violence and homicides,” said Harper. “Our partners are crucial to the success of this department and Detroit Ceasefire has been a cornerstone for our violence reduction strategies.”

Other projects the senators requested funding for will serve communities in Menominee, St. Clair and Grand Rapids.

Funding requests have also been made for Northern Michigan University, Oakland University and Central Michigan University. The funding for NMU will help rural communities in the Upper Peninsula and northern Michigan receive “fast, reliable, and robust broadband internet access.” Roughly $2.4 million has been jointly requested by the senators.

The CMU funding would help digitize roughly 250,000 pages of historic Michigan newspapers. The digitized versions would be made available online free of cost.

Senators do not have any limit on the amount of funding or earmarks they can request within the nine appropriations bills in the upper house. The house has a slight variation, with congressmen being only able to request up to 10 projects. 

Both the House and Senate have capped the total amount of earmarks that can be accepted at 1% of the total discretionary spending. Both chambers have also approved a rule that no for-profit entities can receive earmark funding. 

Democrats in both the House and Senate restored the practice this year after more than a decade. Earmarks were discontinued after numerous “pay to play” corruption scandals and wasteful spending accusations in the mid-2000s. 

Senate Republicans vowed to leave a “permanent ban” on congressionally directed spending requests in a closed-door meeting earlier this year. However, 15 GOP senators have put in requests so far.  

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Julia Forrest
Julia Forrest

Julia Forrest is a contributor to the Michigan Advance. She has been covering Michigan and national politics for two years at the Michigan Daily and OpenSecrets. She studies public policy at the University of Michigan.