From Newsday (Long Island, N.Y.) — Originally published Wednesday, April 15

Earmarks aren't the unmitigated Washington waste they've come to symbolize. At their most benign, they provide a way for elected officials to deliver federal money for worthwhile local causes, without being forced to move heaven and earth — not to mention the entire federal government — in order to do it. ...

Of course, when you're talking government and money, there's always the potential for wasteful excess and corruption. With earmarks, what's needed is a tighter rein on the amount of money spent, greater transparency and closer scrutiny to ensure that they broadly benefit the region, rather than simply help incumbents win re-election.

Congress is on the right track, due in large part to the spotlight on earmarks during the last presidential campaign. Spending is down and transparency is up. Spending peaked at $23.7 billion in 2005 and, by 2008, had dropped to $18.3 billion before ticking up to $19.6 billion in 2009. ...

Most of the requests won't actually win funding. The lists will be whittled down in House Appropriations subcommittees. That's critical if the concept of earmarks is to survive at all. ...