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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Sen. LeMieux: I won't seek earmarks



George LeMieux 2 Republican Sen. George LeMieux said he will not seek earmarks in the 2011 federal budget, citing current fiscal constraints and the mounting national debt.

"I just can't in good conscious support earmarks," he told the St. Petersburg Times. Earmarks -- from city and county infrastructure to university projects to military equipment -- are a tiny portion of the overall budget and most lawmakers seek them.

"But they are the fuel that fires these excessive budgets," LeMieux said.

"I thought about it from the fist week I got here," said LeMieux, picked by Gov. Charlie Crist in September to fill out the final 16 months of Sen. Mel Martinez's term. (The current budget includes a string of earmarks tied to Martinez) "Now we have people approaching the office every day asking for earmarks so it was time to make a final decision. It’s the right thing to do."

LeMieux said he will still help seek money as long as the money has been budgeted and is part of a competitive process -- high speed rail, for instance. The political calculations? LeMieux will not be in office long and he could draw on the anti-pork message (always a populist favorite) should he decide to run for Senate in 2012, as is widely considered.

A spokesman for Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, Dan McLaughlin, said: "Sen. Nelson understands the needs of Florida and advocates for them. Call them earmarks, if you like. But without so-called earmarks Florida would lose stuff like improvements to Mayport naval base; extra money for NASA and jobs; everglades restoration; and, maybe even high-speed rail projects."

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 1:15pm]


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