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Bessent: Put idle earmark dollars to good use

President Barack Obama responds to a question from

President Barack Obama responds to a question from a member of the audience during a campaign event at the Cincinnati Music Hall in Cincinnati. (May 16, 2012) Credit: AP

Remember earmarks?

They drove tea party types bonkers before Congress swore off the process (the House in 2010 the Senate in 2011) that enabled individual lawmakers to direct money to specific projects in their districts. Alaska’s notorious bridge to nowhere was the most infamous example.

Now there are idle earmarks — $473 million set aside as far back as 2003 for infrastructure projects that are stalled. As a result the money, including $29 million earmarked for New York, hasn’t been spent. President Barack Obama said Friday he wants to get that cash off the sidelines and put it to work.

He has authorized states to use it or lose it and given them until Oct. 1 to identify eligible highway, transit, passenger rail or port projects. With thousands of idle construction workers in need of work, it’s a grand idea.

This micro-stimulus won't noticeably juice up economic growth, but New York officials should put the money to good use. Just don't call it an earmark.