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Spending bill has nearly $4 million for area

The House has approved a spending bill for labor and health programs and military construction that includes a treasure trove of earmarks for Western New York -- including projects that prompted Republican Reps. Thomas M. Reynolds and Randy Kuhl to buck the White House and support it.

Nearly $4 million would go to local hospitals and agencies in the bill, which faces an uncertain future because President Bush is threatening to veto it.

"These investments will be vital to our area's economy, families and future," said Reynolds, R-Clarence.

The support that Reynolds and Kuhl showed for the $675 billion spending bill was noteworthy because both lawmakers have been pilloried by liberal groups in recent weeks for refusing to support a bill that would expand a popular children's health care program.

But this week, the two GOP lawmakers from Western New York have voted with Democrats twice for legislation that Bush opposes. They also voted to override Bush's veto of a huge bill that sets guidelines for future federal water projects.

Reynolds claimed $1.7 million in earmarks in the bill despite being in the House minority. Among the grants he won were $600,000 in previously announced funding for the Hunter's Hope Foundation, $400,000 for People Inc. and $350,000 for Niagara County Community College.

The funding for Hunter's Hope will establish the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute in the University at Buffalo's Center for Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences.

Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, claimed $850,000 in Buffalo-area earmarks, including $500,000 for Niagara Memorial Medical Center and $350,000 for Hillside Family of Agencies.

"It is important to remember that each dollar we bring home has a multiplier effect on our community," Slaughter said.

The bill also includes two earmarks from Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo: $200,000 for Mercy Hospital's emergency room and $440,000 for a joint cancer care project in Jamestown.

Beyond the "earmarks" -- pet projects that members of Congress bring back to their districts -- the bill increases veterans benefits and aid to hospitals nationwide, noted Kuhl, R-Hammondsport, who won $650,000 in funding for St. Bonaventure University and $100,000 for Alfred University.

However, Citizens Against Government Waste was not so thrilled with the spending bill. Noting that it included 2,274 earmarks worth $1 billion, down from 3,071 projects worth $1.7 billion two years ago, the watchdog group nonetheless dubbed the bill "Congress' labor of lard."

e-mail: jzremski@buffnews.com.

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