The city of Billings should hit up surplus-rich Montana or the Cincinnati Reds for money for its new $12.5 million baseball stadium, and spare the deficit-ridden federal government, Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn said.

The staunch earmark opponent failed yesterday to persuade colleagues to eliminate $500,000 in funding for the stadium from the Senate’s fiscal 2008 Transportation-Department of Housing and Urban Development spending bill.

“The fact is this earmark just funds ‘a want’ for the city of Billings, Montana, not ‘a need’,” Coburn said.

The Senate tabled three Coburn amendments en bloc in a 63-22 vote on Sept. 12, and so preserved earmarked funding for the stadium, a North Dakota tourist attraction and Louisiana wetlands center in the $104.6 billion Transportation-HUD bill. Coburn has argued that the August collapse of a Minneapolis bridge at rush hour shows dramatically why Congress must prioritize its spending, especially in the bill that will fund road maintenance in the year starting Oct. 1. Poor road conditions throughout the United States already contribute to the deaths of more than 13,000 Americans a year, Coburn said, citing the American Society of Civil Engineers.

And, the city of Billings already has funding in place for the stadium, Coburn said. City officials last year approved a bond issue to finance a 3,500-seat stadium. Although also intended for concerts and fairs, the stadium is intended primarily for a minor league team owned by the Cincinnati Reds. Coburn said the team is valued at $307 million, citing a Forbes article, and had $147 million in revenue last year. He also said Montana possessed a state budget surplus of a half billion dollars, while the federal debt is nearing $9 trillion.

“Common sense should prevail that Montana, with free cash to spend, should foot any extra funding, not the deficit and debt ridden U.S. federal government,” Coburn said. “Montana should fund the stadium long before the other 49 states chip in to subsidize a local Montana project.”

Coburn also sought to eliminate $450,000 for upgrading the International Peace Garden in North Dakota. While the garden “may stand as a symbol of the friendship between the United States and Canada and provide a welcoming source of entertainment for tourists, renovation is not essential, especially when it is estimated there are 700,000 homeless persons living in the U.S.,” Coburn said. He wanted the Senate to withhold $400,000 intended for a the wetland center until HUD and FEMA certify to Congress that “all Louisiana residents displaced by hurricanes Katrina or Rita are no longer living in temporary housing.”

Coburn, a 59-year-old doctor, has long fought against congressional earmarks but has rarely succeeded. Last year, however, he teamed with Illinois Democrat Barack Obama on a bill to establish an online database listing recipients of all federal spending so citizens can see where their money goes. That database is to be fully operational by the start of 2008. Coburn won his Senate seat in 2004. He first came to Congress as a member of the House Republican Class of ’94 that constituted the first Republican majority in the House in 40 years.

Date Title
9/28/07 Congress raises limit again as U.S. debt nears $10 trillion
9/28/07 Coburn targets gun-rights measure
9/27/07 Plan would close drug center
9/27/07 Bush at odds with right wing on NCLB
9/27/07 Congress agrees to raise U.S. credit limit
9/27/07 Coburn Lifts Hold on Suicide Prevention Bill
9/27/07 Congress set to add 4 million people to insurance program despite Bush veto threat
9/26/07 Bill on Gun Restrictions Bogged Down
9/26/07 DeMint Bill Gains Support
9/26/07 DeMint Bill Gains Support
9/26/07 Senate Looks to Fix Travel Rule
9/26/07 Senate Is Next Stop After House Passes Stopgap Funding With Little Debate
9/25/07 GOP: Earmark Rules Too Lax
9/25/07 Coburn Blocks Gun Background-Check Bill, Citing Concerns About Privacy, Spending
9/25/07 CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight on raising the debt limit
9/24/07 Opinion: The new Hillarycare
9/21/07 D.C. Tuition Aid Program Might Get Income Test
9/21/07 Opinion: When Will They Learn? Oh, the things Republicans in Congress let you pay for!
9/20/07 Senate Panel Approves Bill to Require Reports of White House-DOJ Contact
9/20/07 Senate Expected to Vote on Debt Limit Increase Before Columbus Day Recess
9/20/07 Army tests of rival carbines postponed
9/19/07 The Senate's G.O.P. Bomb Throwers
9/18/07 Editorial: Funding congressional pet projects leaves infrastructure across country at risk
9/18/07 Income cap of $1 million proposed for D.C. tuition aid
9/17/07 Money for kid’s health in jeopardy
9/17/07 ‘Hotlined’ Bills Spark Concern
9/17/07 Showdown Over Spending
9/15/07 Editorial: United Nations messes
9/14/07 Editorial: Public projects starve while Congress porks out on ‘earmarks’
9/14/07 Editorial: This little piggy
9/13/07 Coburn: Troop withdrawal is not an option
9/13/07 Funding for bridges served with side of pork
9/13/07 Another Coburn amendment dies
9/13/07 $8B in pet projects clogs bills; In wake of bridge tragedy, road 'earmarks' seen as a crack in funding system
9/12/07 Senate Rejects Proposed Amtrak Cuts
9/12/07 Dems writing stopgap spending measure to last into November
9/12/07 Current record
9/12/07 Senate Rejects Attempt to Waive Wage Rules for Work on ‘Deficient’ Bridges
9/11/07 Healthy Medical Reforms
9/11/07 Democrats, GOP Mapping Approps Strategies
9/10/07 Opinion: The Senate's Ethics Sleight of Hand
9/9/07 Column: How the Swiss do health care
9/7/07 Going Coconut over Florida earmark
9/7/07 Coburn says public should get 'disgusted'
9/6/07 Coburn stands by blockage of vet bill
9/5/07 Editorial: Health Care and Taxes
9/4/07 Opinion: Backers of health plan for kids have other motives
9/4/07 Unfinished business awaiting Congress: Pay raise, Defense bills
9/4/07 Debates in Congress expected to heat up
9/4/07 MPO to consider rescinding vote to return 'tainted' money
9/2/07 Column: Dem congressmen worry about re-election if Clinton is nominee