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Shuster delivers more Capitol cash in Chambersburg

February 01, 2006|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster delivered $100,000 worth of "PORC" to the Capitol Theatre on Tuesday, and although that is well short of the federal funding his father secured for the theater five years ago, he said he hopes to exceed that figure some day.

The congressman said his father, former U.S. representative Bud Shuster, once secured an $823,000 grant for the theater. "I figure, in my lifetime, I have to do at least $824,000," he said.

Shuster, R-Pa., presented a ceremonial check, representing a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, that he inserted into the department's 2006 appropriations bill.

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Sometimes referred to as "earmarks" or "pork-barrel," Shuster said such grants "are what I call economic development money." He said it was a senior congressman who told him of the acronym PORC, for "projects of regional concern."

Shuster, whose seat is up for election this year, defended the practice of members of congress earmarking money for projects in their states and districts, saying "it's better we're doing it than some bureaucrat in Washington." As a congressman, Shuster said, he is in a better position to learn from local elected officials and residents what is needed in his district.

Shuster said the theater center is the type of amenity executives and managers of corporations are looking for when deciding whether to move into a community.

In this case, the money will be used for pay for further capital improvements at the Capitol Theatre Center, which includes the theater and an addition constructed in 2002-03, according to Paul Cullinane, the president of Downtown Chambersburg Inc.

The theater reopened earlier this month after being closed following a partial ceiling collapse April 30, 2005, in the theater that injured several people. Cullinane said the $321,000 bill for replacing the entire ceiling and other improvements to the 79-year-old theater has been paid through private donations, including a $250,000 donation by the late Cora I. Grove.

Cullinane said several grants have been instrumental to the theater center, including a $2.5 million state grant in 1998 that was secured by state Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin/Adams, Bud Shuster's 2001 grant and a $124,000 grant from U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter in 2004. The theater has also benefited from private donations, including more than $1 million from The Wood Foundation.

Cullinane said the theater center still has debts of $551,000, but fundraising continues.

"The ultimate goal is to have no debt and an endowment in excess of $2 million and I think that can be done," Cullinane said.

Shuster said he had not had a chance to review advanced copies of President Bush's State of the Union Address, but expected the president would announce a push to expand health savings accounts, raising the amount people can contribute to the tax-free 401(k)-like health savings plans.

Shuster said he was also pleased that Joseph Alito was confirmed by the Senate to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, saying he would be a justice that would interpret the Constitution rather than "legislate from the bench" or "dream up new laws."

He was also pleased by Specter's performance as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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