U.S. Rep. David Price says earmarks have gotten a bad rap.
In a speech before the Cary Chamber of Commerce this morning, the Chapel Hill Democrat said the recent debate over Congressional earmarks has blown them out of proportion.
Price said the total amount of money spent on earmarked projects is about 1 percent of the federal budget. The bigger problems with spending are the Iraq war, Medicare and Social Security, he said.
A professor of political science, Price argued that the U.S. Constitution clearly gives Congress "the power of the purse," including the right to direct spending. He cited several local projects, including a town water reclamation facility, that were needed.
The issue with earmarks is not spending, since most of the money would be appropriated anyway, he said. Instead, he said, it has been a lack of transparency and "road to nowhere" projects that were not worthy.
Still, he said, there is "a fair amount of exaggeration" about earmarks.
"This earmark process has become kind of a bugaboo and it's going to figure in some of the campaigns," he said. "Everybody should take a deep breath."