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Tribune Editorial: Obama must start work now on earmarks

The time has come for the Congress to strike a new path on earmarks. We urge President Obama to follow through now on his campaign promise to change the earmark system and reduce earmark spending.

A current $410 billion bill intended to fund government operations through September includes more than $7 billion in earmarks.

The bill has $227 million in special earmarks requested by former congressional members. USA Today reported Thursday that former Republican congressman Rick Renzi, indicted on land deal problems, included seven projects totaling $1.2 million.

More Republicans were on the list as the party suffered more losses in the November election. Former Republican Rep. Dave Hobson of Ohio has 20 earmarks totaling $24 million, while former Rep. Vigil Goode of Virginia has 24 earmarks totaling $20 million.

Former Democratic Rep. Hilda Solis, now U.S. Labor Secretary, has $2.5 million in earmarks in the bill.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., have called on the president to veto this bill, which includes too much earmark spending.

We agree.

Obama staffers claim this bill is last year's business and that the president will cut earmark spending in future budget bills. Earmark spending has escalated considerably during the past decade.

While many of the earmarks fund needed programs in the target communities, the system is broken and is often abused.

The earmark reform has to start now. Obama should veto this spending bill and send it back to Congress. Call on Sen. McCain and Feingold to lead a bipartisan effort to reform this congressional boondoggle.

Now is the time for Obama to start earmark reform.