Saturday, September 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

The return of WAMs?

Earmarks or WAMs apparently are creeping back into the state budget process. Might that eventually be a good thing?

The return of WAMs?

Whether they are called earmarks or WAMs (walking around money), little sweeteners added to government budgets often to get votes from elected officials, long have been controversial.

There are those, myself included, who think political gridlock in Washington and Harrisburg, could be loosened if more of these so-called-banned goodies were part of the process.

I wrote a column about this back in April after the U.S. Senate fell six votes shy of expanding criminal-background checks for gun buyers. And I thought about it while watching the state Legislature narrowly fail to get liquor privatization as part its annual budget battle.

Now comes a report in The Scranton Times-Tribune suggesting WAMs are walking their way back into the state spending plan. You can read it here.

The newspaper says the state Fiscal Code adopted late by lawmakes and awaiting Gov. Corbett's signature (he who promised as a candidate WAMs would be no more) contains $29.3 million worth of special projects all across the state.

Projects include $1 million for a barber school in Erie; $700,000 for Big Brother and Big Sister programs in Philly and Pittsburgh; $500,000 to restore an historic property in Franklin County; $450,000 for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg; $300,000 for an agriculture resource center at Penn State; and $150,000 for treatment of depressed senior citizens in Allegheny County.

These and others are no doubt fine causes. And the irony here is bringing back close to $30 million of such projects still get anything done in terms of big-ticket policy items.

But, as I suggested back in April, maybe good government can gum things up. And maybe more earmarks or WAMs would loosen legislative gridlock.


John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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