Stimulus critic Wamp pulls in plenty for his district

Stimulus critic Wamp pulls in plenty for his district

September 6th, 2009 by Pam Sohn in Stimulus


* 21 projects valued at $842 million in Anderson County

* 13 projects valued at $102 million in Hamilton County

* 5 projects valued at $29.3 million in Polk County

* 4 projects valued at $16.2 million in Union County

* 10 projects valued at $9.3 million in Bradley County

* 5 projects valued at $1.5 million in Rhea County

* 3 projects valued at $1 million in Meigs County

* 3 projects valued at $797,000 in Jefferson County

* 2 projects in Roane County

* 1 project in Claiborne County

* 0 projects in Grainger County

Total: $1 billion


As much as U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., has complained about the stimulus package - calling it "a mountain of new debt without incentives for job creation" - his district is far and away the big winner in Tennessee.

In stimulus projects alone, the 3rd District apparently has received 20 percent of the state's $5.2 billion, and Anderson County, home of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is Tennessee's king of stimulus. Its $842 million is the state's single largest award.

Oak Ridge officials say the money to clean up the Manhattan Project-era buildings and other Oak Ridge projects will create about 1,500 jobs over the next two years.

The figures have State Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forester questioning the political motives of Rep. Wamp, who in January announced his candidacy for governor in the 2010 election.

"It seems almost slightly hypocritical to be so opposed and yet having worked to see those federal dollars come to the 3rd District," Mr. Forester said last week. "I wonder how the Tennessee residents in the 3rd Congressional District feel about the fact that it has provided working men and women with jobs they would not otherwise have."

Rep. Wamp, who voted against the American Recovery and Reimbursement Act when Congress passed it in February, said Friday that his district is very deserving of the help. He also said it was the energy allocations of the stimulus bill that he has said were the only "15 percent" that would stimulate the economy in the right way.

He voted against the bill, he said, because he felt the plan was rushed through without proper scrutiny and debate, and because it levied too much debt onto the nation.

Putting the long-term interest of the country over the short-term interests of his district was not easy, but necessary, he said.

"Overall for the country, for the long-term benefit, it was not the right thing to do," he said.

Not even the silver lining of Oak Ridge's award has all been positive, he added.

Because of the awards for the cleanup, Oak Ridge's annual allocation was reduced in the 2010 budget.

"Because there's a short-term benefit, it lowers their baseline for future funding, giving them more instability." Rep. Wamp said.