Legislators Get Creative With New Crop of Earmarks

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Science  04 Sep 1998:
Vol. 281, Issue 5382, pp. 1436-1438
DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5382.1436

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A predicted budget surplus, the Supreme Court's rejection of the president's authority to veto individual items in a spending bill, and the fall election campaign have invigorated the traditional practice in which legislators channel money to institutions in their home states. Although such spending, called "earmarking," has been curtailed in recent years due to budget woes and efforts by Republican leaders to make good on promises to cut government waste, congressional actions so far this year suggest that earmarks for science projects could reach or exceed last year's total of a half-billion dollars, up 67% from the 1995 level. But this practice has long been controversial, and some scientists and policy-makers say that a better alternative would be for Congress to provide funds aimed specifically at improving the research capacity of so-called "have-not" institutions and regions and then to use peer review to select individual award winners.