Spending- why 'red' states shoulder the deepest cuts under Obama

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Spending- why 'red' states shoulder the deepest cuts under Obama
President Barack Obama speaks at Boise State University on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2015, in Boise, Idaho. (AP Photo/Otto Kitsinger)
President Barack Obama speaks at Boise State University on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2015, in Boise, Idaho. (AP Photo/Otto Kitsinger)
President Barack Obama speaks at Boise State University on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2015, in Boise, Idaho. (AP Photo/Otto Kitsinger)
President Barack Obama greets people in the tarmac as hr arrives on Air Force One at Gowen Field Air National Guard Base?, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, in Boise , Idaho, en route to Boise State University where he will discuss the themes in his State of the Union address. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama speaks at Boise State University, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, in Boise, Idaho, about the themes in his State of the Union address. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
In this Jan. 22, 2015, photo, President Barack Obama speaks during a visit to the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas. The veto threats that he's issued over the last three weeks are a microcosm of American politics, representing the roiling issues of the day, the power struggle playing out between Congress and the White House, and even the pique between the president and GOP congressional leaders. Obama, who vetoed just two minor bills over the past six years, has been tossing out veto threats like confetti since Republicans took full control of Congress. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
President Barack Obama visits with 3-5 year-olds at the Community Children's Center in Lawrence, Kansas, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, before speaking about the themes in his State of the Union address. Akira Cooper is at right. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama greets visitors who gathered to watch the departure of Air Force One, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, at Forbes Field in Topeka, Kansas, en route to Washington. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
President Barack Obama greets people after speaking at the University of Kansas Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, in Lawrence, Kansas. Obama was speaking about the themes in his State of the Union address. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
President Barack Obama speaks during a visit to the University of Kansas Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, in Lawrence, Kansas. Obama was speaking about the themes in his State of the Union address. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
President Barack Obama speaks during a visit to the University of Kansas Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, in Lawrence, Kansas. Obama was speaking about the themes in his State of the Union address. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, about the themes in his State of the Union address. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., addresses a rally in Florence, S.C., Friday, Jan. 25, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., addresses a rally in Columbia, S.C., Friday, Jan. 25, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., listens to Christina Stewart during a roundtable discussion on women's issues in a Charleston, S.C., deli Friday, Jan. 25, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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A Secret Service agent, left, watches the crowd as Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., participates in a march on the South Carolina Capitol in honor of Martin Luther King, Monday, Jan. 21, 2008, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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President Barack Obama is silhouetted as he speaks at the TransCanada Stillwater Pipe Yard in Cushing, Okla., Thursday, March, 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
With oil pump jacks as a backdrop, President Barack Obama waves to the crowd prior to speaking at an oil and gas field on federal lands Wednesday, March 21, 2012, in Maljamar, NM. The president is defending his energy agenda this week, traveling Wednesday to a solar panel plant in Nevada, but also the site of a future oil pipeline in Oklahoma. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
President Barack Obama speaks after touring Sempra's Copper Mountain Solar 1 facility, Wednesday, March 21, 2012, in Boulder City, Nev. The president is defending his energy agenda this week, traveling Wednesday not only to the solar panel plant in Nevada, but also later to oil and gas fields in New Mexico and the site of a future oil pipeline in Oklahoma. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
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Jan 28 (Reuters) - As Washington has tightened its belt in recent years, the budget cuts have sliced most deeply in states where President Obama is unpopular, according to an analysis of federal spending by Reuters.

Between the 2009 and 2013 fiscal years, funding for a wide swath of discretionary grant programs, from Head Start preschool education to anti drug initiatives, fell by an average of 40 percent in Republican-leaning states like Texas and Mississippi.

By contrast, funding to Democratic-leaning states such as California and politically competitive swing states like Ohio dropped by 25 percent.

Though Congress sets overall spending levels, the Obama administration determines where much of that money ends up. Lawmakers also have curtailed their ability to direct money to their home states when they adopted a ban on spending in 2011 known as "earmarks."

That has given administration officials more power to steer money to places that might return the favor with votes, said John Hudak, an expert on federal spending at the centrist Brookings Institution who worked with Reuters on the analysis.

"In the context of the Obama administration, swing states and blue states are doing better than red states," said Hudak, who uncovered similar spending patterns by previous presidents in his book "Presidential Pork."

"I would suggest these numbers would tell us there is politicization going on," he said.

For the analysis, Reuters divided the U.S. into three categories: Republican-leaning "red" states where Obama got less than 45 percent of the vote in the 2012 election; competitive "purple" states where he won between 45 percent and 55 percent of the vote; and Democratic-leaning "blue" states where he won more than 55 percent of the vote.

Red, purple and blue states have all shouldered steep spending cuts after a 2011 budget deal, the analysis found. But those cuts have not been doled out evenly.

Discretionary grant funding to red states like Mississippi fell by 40 percent to $15 billion between fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2013, the most recent year for which reliable figures are available. Purple states like Ohio and North Carolina saw a smaller drop of 27 percent, to $19.8 billion, and blue states saw a yet-smaller drop of 22.5 percent, to $27.6 billion. (The tally does not include disaster aid handed out after Hurricane Sandy, which went largely to blue states like New Jersey.)

The disparity doesn't show up in payments like Medicaid that are distributed through pre-set formulas. It also does not appear in Obama's 2009 recession-fighting Recovery Act. It only shows up in federal aid that is most directly controlled by the administration: "project grants," which are doled out on a competitive basis by career civil servants and political appointees.

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2014 State of the Union - only use for article: 21132000 - SOTU - POTUS - President Barack Obama
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Spending- why 'red' states shoulder the deepest cuts under Obama

IMMIGRATION: "Let's get immigration reform done this year," Obama declared to a Congress that had long blocked his efforts. And so he did, although it was not the broad plan he envisioned that would have allowed a path to citizenship for more than 11 immigrants illegally in the United States. Instead, Obama took executive action to make more than 4 million of those immigrants eligible for protection from deportation and eligible for work permits. (AP Photo/Larry Downing, Pool)

MINIMUM WAGE: One of Obama's most ambitious ideas was to raise America's minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, upping the ante from the $9-an-hour proposal he made in the 2013 State of the Union. Congress wasn't keen on the idea, but the president was able to unilaterally make the change for new federal contractors. The White House estimated it would directly help a few hundred thousand people, but argues the bigger impact has been that several states and localities raised their minimum wage last year after Obama raised the debate. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

ENERGY: Obama said the goal of his energy policy is to create jobs and a cleaner planet and announced that he wanted to set higher fuel economy standards for trucks. He followed up by visiting a Safeway distribution center to promote the idea. The process for making the change is underway within the administration, with a new regulation planned to be proposed in March 2015 and finalized in March 2016. (Image: Getty)

RETIREMENT SAVINGS: Obama was able to create a new retirement savings account - dubbed "myRA" for "my IRA" - geared toward low- and middle-income Americans who don't have the upfront investment that many commercial IRAs require. For years, Obama has been asking Congress to encourage more Americans to grow a retirement nest egg by allowing all workers to be automatically enrolled in IRAs unless they specifically opt out. But Congress hasn't acted on that, so Obama offered the more modest myRA plan. The Treasury Department has set up a new security as the basis for the investment and for the past month has been running a pilot program with a small group of employers, with plans to expand the program by the end of 2015. (LARRY DOWNING/AFP/Getty Images)

TAXES: While most of Obama's proposals last year were positions he had long advocated, one of the few new proposals he offered was extension of the earned-income tax credit, which helps boost the wages of low-income families through tax refunds. Obama wanted it broadened to provide more help to workers without children, a view embraced by some Republicans and conservative economists. "Let's work together to strengthen the credit, reward work, and help more Americans get ahead," Obama said optimistically - too optimistically, it turned out. The proposal never passed. (AP Photo/Larry Downing, Pool)

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28: U.S. President Barack Obama (C) kisses Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius after delivering the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on January 28, 2014 in Washington, DC. In his fifth State of the Union address, Obama is expected to emphasize on healthcare, economic fairness and new initiatives designed to stimulate the U.S. economy with bipartisan cooperation. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 28: First Lady Michelle Obama, center, greets Army Ranger Cory Remsburg, upon arriving in the House Chamber of the Capitol before her husband, President Barack Obama, delivered his State of the Union address. Remsburg was wounded during an IED attack in Afghanistan. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28: First lady Michelle Obama (R) stands with US Army Ranger Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg before U.S. President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on January 28, 2014 in Washington, DC. In his fifth State of the Union address, Obama is expected to emphasize on healthcare, economic fairness and new initiatives designed to stimulate the U.S. economy with bipartisan cooperation. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28: Willie Robertson (L) of the television show Duck Dynasty talks with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) before U.S. President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on January 28, 2014 in Washington, DC. In his fifth State of the Union address, Obama is expected to emphasize on healthcare, economic fairness and new initiatives designed to stimulate the U.S. economy with bipartisan cooperation. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 28: President Barack Obama greets Secretary of State John Kerry upon arriving in the House Chamber of the Capitol to deliver his State of the Union address. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON - JANUARY 28: U.S. Senator for New York Kirtsten Gillibrand, left, talks with U.S. Senator for Arizona John McCain at the U.S. Capitol where President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress, on January 28, 2014 in Washington, DC. . (Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Joseph 'Joe' Biden, U.S. vice president, left, talks to House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, before U.S. President Barack Obama, not pictured, delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. Obama offered modest steps to chip away at the country's economic and social challenges in a State of the Union address that reflects the limits of his power to sway Congress. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S Representative Janice Hahn, a Democrat from California, wipes her lipstick from the cheek of U.S. Vice President Joseph 'Joe' Biden as he arrives for President Barack Obama's State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. President Barack Obama urged Congress to back two priorities for U.S. multinational corporations: broader authority for his administration to negotiate trade deals, and changes to immigration laws. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 28: President Barack Obama hugs Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg upon arriving in the House Chamber of the Capitol to deliver his State of the Union address. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
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Of course, many factors other than politics come into play. Some states aren't good at writing grant proposals - researchers at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, for example, found that poor planning has hurt that state's ability to compete for federal dollars. A governor from an oil-producing state may be less inclined to pursue green-energy grants.

But the disparity can't be fully explained by these factors. At Reuters' request, Hudak ran a statistical analysis of spending over this period, controlling for differences in population, economy, percentage of elderly residents, miles of federal highway and the number of research universities and hospitals.

Red states still came up short. After 2011, the average red state got 15 percent fewer grants and 1.3 percent fewer grant dollars than the average swing state. That comes out to roughly 500 grants and $15 million for an average-sized red state like Tennessee - enough to pay for 115 additional police officers or upgrade a rural airport to handle larger planes.

PLAYING POLITICS

Veterans of both Democratic and Republican administrations say privately that politics often come into play with such grants. Money to help upgrade a train depot may not boost a president's approval rating in a state where he is deeply unpopular, but it might make a difference in a competitive state like Colorado.

This approach isn't unique to Obama. Under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Hudak found that purple states got about 7.3 percent more grants and 5.7 percent more grant dollars than states that were firmly in one camp.

The Obama administration did not explain why Republican-leaning states have borne the steepest budget cuts, and several Democratic lawmakers declined to comment.

"The administration supports allocating federal grants based on objecting criteria that will help protect taxpayer dollars and ensure that lawmakers are responsible and accountable to the American people," the White House Office of Management and Budget said in a statement to Reuters.

Project grants, which totaled $74 billion in the fiscal year ending September 2013, help pay for everything from homeless assistance to agricultural research. But they are also a good publicity tool for a president looking to show voters how he's making a difference in their communities.

As Obama ran for re-election in 2012, administration officials traveled to battleground states to announce good news: $45 million for a manufacturing research center in Ohio; $8.2 million for a tech incubator in Gainesville, Florida; $18 million to extend a rail system in Charlotte, North Carolina. Each generated favorable coverage in local news outlets.

Those announcements were less common in states where Obama had no hope of winning over his Republican rival Mitt Romney.

Ohio, a key battleground state, won 10,232 grants in the fiscal year that ended in September 2012, just before the election - an increase of 21 percent over fiscal 2009. Ruby-red Texas saw the number of grants it was awarded over that period drop by 37 percent, to 10,775, according to Reuters figures.

In dollar terms, according to Reuters data, the difference was just as dramatic. Grant money for Texas dropped 43 percent, to $4.0 billion, over that time period. Dollars to Ohio declined 16.5 percent, to $2.0 billion.

EARMARK NOSTALGIA

The big problem for lawmakers? They lost their ability to influence the flow of that money. Before the earmark ban, states with elected officials who oversee spending on the Senate Appropriations Committee got about 7.6 percent more grant dollars than other states, Hudak found. After the 2011 earmark ban, evidence of clout disappeared.

Republican Representative John Culberson used to insert earmarks into spending bills to steer medical research and other projects to his Houston-area district. Since the ban took effect, he says he's had trouble getting the administration to pay for border control, harbor dredging and even send aid to mop up after a chemical plant explosion.

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Spending- why 'red' states shoulder the deepest cuts under Obama
President Barack Obama puts on a glove before starting a round of golf at Andrews Air Force Base on Saturday, April 5, 2014, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 19: In this handout provide by the White House, U.S. President Barack Obama practices his golf swing at an outdoor hold prior to an event at the Miguel Contreras Learning Center on March 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Obama is serving as the 44th President of the U.S. and the first African-American to be elected to the office of President in the history of the United States. (Photo by Pete Souza/White House via Getty Images)
CORRECTING BY REMOVING FOUR-COUNTRY TRIP TO EUROPE - President Barack Obama drives a golf cart as he arrives to play golf at Andrews Air Force Base in Md., Saturday, March 22, 2014. Obama leaves Sunday night for a long planned four-country trip, which begins Monday in the Netherlands. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Barack Obama, left, walks with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key to the second green as they golf at Kaneohe Klipper Golf Course on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. The first family is in Hawaii for their annual holiday vacation. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama plays golf at the Mid Pacific Country Club, Wednesday, .Jan. 1, 2014 in Lanikai on the island of Oahu, in Hawaii. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
President Barack Obama is seen walking toward his ball, shown in the foreground, on the golf course at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., during a round of golf with Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., Monday, May 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
US President Barack Obama waves at a crowd on 18th green as he plays golf at Mid-Pacific Country Club in Kailua, Hawaii, on January 1, 2014. The first family is in Hawaii for their annual winter vacation. AFP PHOTO/Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama lines up his putt at 18th green as he plays golf at Mid-Pacific Country Club in Kailua, Hawaii, on January 1, 2014. The first family is in Hawaii for their annual winter vacation. AFP PHOTO/Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama reacts at 18th green as he plays golf at Mid-Pacific Country Club in Kailua, Hawaii, on January 1, 2014. The first family is in Hawaii for their annual winter vacation. AFP PHOTO/Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (R) talks with Senator Bob Corker, R-TN, as they play golf on the first hole at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, on May 6, 2013. Obama also played with Senator Mark Udall, D-CO, and Senator Saxby Chambliss, R-GA. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, MD - SEPTEMBER 24: Former U.S. President Bill Clinton (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama chat after completing the first hole during a golf game September 24, 2011 at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. They were also joined by Obama's Chief of Staff William Daley and Clinton's adviser Doug Band. (Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama plays golf at Mid-Pacific Country Club in Kailua, Hawaii, 23, 2013. The first family is in Hawaii for their annual winter holiday vacation. AFP PHOTO/Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama, right, smiles while standing with Cyrus Walker, left, cousin of White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, while golfing at Farm Neck Golf Club, in Oak Bluffs, Mass., on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Former NBA basketball player Alonzo Mourning, left, and President Barack Obama speak with one another while golfing at Farm Neck Golf Club, in Oak Bluffs, Mass., on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Sunday, Aug. 19, 2014. In a rare move for him, the president planned a break in the middle of his Martha's Vineyard vacation to return to Washington Sunday night for unspecified meetings with Vice President Joe Biden and other advisers. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
President Barack Obama follows through on a swing while golfing at Farm Neck Golf Club, in Oak Bluffs, Mass., on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Friday, Aug. 15, 2014. President Obama is staying on Martha's Vineyard for what is expected to be a two-week summer vacation. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
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"The Obama administration approaches the federal government the same way the Chicago machine politicians approach the Chicago public treasury: it's to be used for their own benefit," he said.

Some Republicans worry they've handed too much control to the administration. But Congress, under the watch of Republican House Speaker John Boehner, isn't likely to lift the earmark ban any time soon.

"Speaker Boehner is proud of the reforms we have put in place," spokesman Michael Steel said, "and believes more should be done to ensure that Washington makes responsible decisions about taxpayers' money."

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan)

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