Federal spending is key issue in US Senate race

Sen. Patty Murray's success at getting federal funding for state and local projects is being challenged.


Is this nation serious about reducing its pork intake?

No, not "the other white meat." We're talking about those local and state projects funded with federal dollars skillfully garnered by members of Congress.

Not long ago the practice of bringing home the bacon was accepted, if not required. But as the federal debt has grown and grown, more and more folks have focused on reducing federal spending.

Some of those people are even saying they favor reduced spending even if it means their local projects won't be funded.

That, at least, is what they say. But do they back up their words at the polls on election day? Do they vote out of office the senators and representatives who have delivered?

Generally, no. Most folks, despite their rhetoric, don't seem to mind federal money being spent if it is in their state or region.

But 2010 is shaping up to be a different kind of election year. And a race to watch is Sen. Patty Murray's bid for re-election. Murray, D-Wash., is facing what looks to be a strong challenge from Republicans Dino Rossi and Clint Didier.

Murray's success at obtaining federal funds is being portrayed as a negative by her opponents.

But Murray, who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee and is chairwoman of its transportation subcommittee, said she uses her political clout to help her constituents, which is her job. She has garnered millions of dollars for Washington state that has gone for military projects, roads and veterans facilities. For example, her fingerprints are on funding for the new, four-lane U.S. Highway 12 and for improvements at Walla Walla's Jonathan M. Wainwright VA Medical Center.

"You can opt out of (accepting funds), but that means every community in our state is going to be left behind," Murray said. "That money is still going to be allocated in the budget, but it's just going to go to California or New York."

This isn't an easy issue. The nation needs military projects, roads, veterans facilities and a whole lotta stuff. If it's going to be funded, why not Washington state?

Well, it depends on the needs at the time as juxtaposed with the needs in other states. This is a bit hard to discern since most of us see things from where we live.

Ironically, that's why we elect people to go to the Senate and House. It's their job to see the big picture and make the right choices for the good of the nation. Or is that for the good of their state or district?

From now until November, Murray will be asked over and over to explain why she felt it necessary to obtain funding for the various Washington state projects.

And Murray's challengers, Didier and Rossi, will be asked what they would do differently than Murray and why.

The biggest question, however, is whether voters across the nation are as serious as they say they are about reducing federal spending that benefits their state?

We might get a hint as to how the question will be answered on Aug. 17, the day the primary election ballots are counted.


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