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Franklin Co. lawmakers join call to cut 'WAMs'

August 13, 2010|By JENNIFER FITCH

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- State Reps. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin/Cumberland, and Todd Rock, R-Franklin, are calling on Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell to eliminate discretionary grant funding, often called "walking-around money" or WAMs.

The state is due to receive $595 million in federal funding for Medical Assistance, rather than the $850 million included in the 2010-11 state budget, Kauffman said.

That leaves a $255 million hole in the budget, he said.

Kauffman, Rock and 25 other lawmakers wrote a letter to Rendell and asked him to cut the WAMs to save nearly $100 million.

"It won't address the entire shortfall, so other cuts will have to be made. But there is no question these line items should be the first things to go," Kauffman said.

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At issue aren't the $5,000 grants for fire departments and Little Leagues, but the $500,000 and $1 million checks handed out by the governor and senior legislators, Rock and Kauffman said.

Those grants are used to "buy" votes, particularly ones against a legislator's constituents' best interests, Kauffman alleged.

"They're not merit based," he said of WAMs. "There's not a ranking system."

Rock said he has concerns the governor, who has trimming discretion after the budget passes, would eliminate planned education funding increases to get rid of the budget deficit.

"I think the first place to cut would be WAMs before education," he said.

Items identified in the letter for cutting include:

o Local government resources and development -- $6 million

o Urban development -- $10.56 million

o Community and business assistance -- $9 million

o Economic growth and development assistance -- $3.1 million

o Community and municipal facilities assistance -- $3 million

o Regional development initiative -- $3 million

o Cultural activities -- $2.4 million

o Community and regional development -- $4.16 million

o Tourism accredited zoos -- $500,000

o Digital and robotic technology -- $196,000

o Opportunity grant program -- $17.8 million

o Customized job training -- $8.66 million

o Community conservation and employment -- $24.2 million

o Community action team -- $295,000

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