Congress — or the Republicans in it, anyway — have sworn off earmarks, temporarily at least.
Which considerably circumscribes the options of communities such as Twin Falls, which for years have depended on federal spending on specific projects sponsored by members of Congress to pay for projects such as wasterwater work at Auger Falls or digitizing a century’s worth of newspaper microfilm and other history records at the Twin Falls Public Library.
So why is the city still sending Washington lobbyist Will Hollier $5,000 a month to push for such projects?
For the next two years, at least, the primary source of new federal funds for the city will be grants. For that, Twin Falls needs a grant administrator or an assistant city manager, not a lobbyist.
Not that Hollier, a former staffer for U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, hasn’t done great work on the city’s behalf. His efforts secured Twin Falls $1.6 million for wastewater work at Auger Falls and another $100,000 for the Twin Falls Public Library.
But for now, that $5,000 a month — $60,000 a year — could be used for other purposes.
It could pay for a new position at the Twin Falls Police Department — and then some. Or it could cover the $52,506 deficit that the Twin Falls Golf Club ran last year.
As far as next year’s city budget is concerned, we’re getting down to cases: Just a month ago the City Council was talking about the prospect of layoffs.
The projected Twin Falls city deficit for the 2012 fiscal year is $2.4 million. That grows to $3.3 million in 2013 and $5.4 million in 2014.
Clearly, $60,000 will make a difference.
“In the future, communities across the country are not going to find much help forthcoming from the federal government as it finally confronts its own fiscal crisis,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho.
That’s the new normal. The city of Twin Falls needs to accommodate it.