At a time when earmarks have come under fire, one lawmaker is defending his requests for millions of dollars worth of pet projects.
Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., argues that his earmarks, not tax cuts for high earners, will get Americans back to work.
During a Saturday interview with Fox News, Tonko claimed the Bush-era tax cuts "did not produce the trickle-down that was promised. Those tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 were marketed as job creation and job retention program bills. That simply did not happen."
According to the Fiscal Year 2011 Appropriations Request posted on his Congressional website, Tonko requested $1 million for "Technology to Combat Asian Long-Horned Beetles in New York Forests" and $2.5 million for a "Biowaste to Bioenergy Center."
When asked about his earmarks, including the beetle project, Tonko told Fox News, "We need to invest in the recovery, we need to invest in job creation. I'm an engineer... When you invest in technology, when you invest in basic research and R&D [research and development] you grow jobs."
Tonko says he doesn't think the tax cut compromise will do much to create jobs, and voted "nay" on H.R. 4853, the Tax Relief Unemployment Extension Bill. The House passed the bill on Thursday night by a vote of 277-148.
The bill provides a two-year extension for all tax cuts, including those for families earning more than $250,000 a year. It also extends unemployment insurance through next year.
While Tonko supports the extension of unemployment insurance, he takes issue with the tax cuts for high-earning households.
"We could have used the dollars saved by not doing millionaire and billionaire tax cuts, and applied them to investment in technology, investment in the innovation economy, investment in infrastructure," Tonko told Fox News. "Where are the jobs?"
Although Tonko says the Bush-era tax cuts "provided the most dismal decade of job creation since post World War II," he insists that President Obama's relationship with liberal wing of the party is "secure."
"The president fought for the issues and ideals we believe strongly in," said Tonko. "It's unfortunate he was held hostage."