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With law’s approval, Oklahoma due $82 million in projects

BY CHRIS CASTEEL Modified: March 12, 2009 at 4:31 am •  Published: March 12, 2009
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama signed a $410 billion spending bill on Wednesday that includes $82 million in special projects for Oklahoma.

Before signing the bill, Obama called for changes in the way lawmakers direct funding to their home state priorities, saying the "earmarks” must undergo more scrutiny from Congress and the public.

But Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, who fought to remove earmarks from the bill, said the president had given "amnesty to pork-barrel politicians.”

"I trust the president’s sincerity and commitment to earmark reform,” Coburn said. "The problem is many members of Congress do not. ... The veto pen is the only meaningful legislative tool available to the president.”

The watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense said the bill signed by Obama, which will fund most government departments and agencies through the rest of the fiscal year, includes nearly 9,000 earmarks valued at $7.7 billion.

A state breakdown by the group shows Oklahoma received 95 projects worth $82 million.

All of the state’s lawmakers except Coburn received projects. But the Republicans from the state opposed the bill.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, blasted the bill, but defended his projects and said that, "as long as the current process remains, you can bet I will be working to get every dollar I can for Oklahoma.”

Among the Oklahoma projects in the law:

• $285,000 for the Native American Cultural and Educational Authority

• $333,000 for the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation

• $1.3 million for Central Oklahoma Parking and Transportation Authority buses

• $381,000 for the Norman Regional Health System

• $5.4 million for the Arkansas River Navigation System

• $350,000 for a weather radar at the University of Oklahoma

• $300,000 for a water treatment plant in McAlester

• $274,000 for animal waste management study at Oklahoma State University

• $150,000 for Children’s Advocacy Centers of Oklahoma

• $500,000 for the Beckham County Sheriff’s Office

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