Lawmakers are beaming over the budget earmarks they expect Gov. Deval Patrick to approve, but when it comes to tourism, culture and the arts, most state-funded projects appear stuck on the drawing table.

Lawmakers are beaming over the budget earmarks they expect Gov. Deval Patrick to approve, but when it comes to tourism, culture and the arts, most state-funded projects appear stuck on the drawing table.


"A lot of grant money isn't always spent efficiently," said Rep. James Vallee, D-Franklin, vice chairman of the Joint Ways and Means Committee. "You can study something to death but eventually you have to start doing something."


Framingham's Downtown Renaissance has been planning a local revival for four years. The economic and cultural development committee has created elaborate maps and photos identifying areas for improvement, but lacks the authority to make changes.


"There are various grants and suggestions FDR can make to the Planning Board," said John Stasik, a selectman who serves on the committee. "While this revisioning process is going on there are several other projects going on that dovetail. The selectmen are doing a study at Nevins Hall about what can be done to make it more useful and attractive."


After seeing the funding cut out of last year's budget by then-Gov. Mitt Romney, committee members will have to wait until July 13 to see if Patrick approves the $26.8 billion budget and their $50,000 earmark.


The START partnership, another self-described "organization of organizations" that promotes local art, is also slated to receive $50,000.


"It is a nice amount of money for a nonprofit to get, but we could always use more and do more," said Director Carla Fink, who will spend the money on START's payroll, Web site and advertising for the Spring Into Arts Festival.


The Waltham Tourism Council is expected to get $100,000, up $25,000 from last year.


Waltham Chamber of Commerce Director John Peacock said the council, which has received $75,000 for the past three years, has created a DVD that promotes Waltham to people staying in the city's hotels.


According to Peacock, this year the council will study where to put up signs pointing to a handful of Waltham tourist attractions.


"Quite frankly I hate studies like that, but you have to do it," he said. "You don't want to be pasting signs up everywhere."


MetroWest lawmakers aren't the only ones trying to make their downtowns more attractive and tourist friendly.


Other earmarks include $375,000 for performing art promotion in Wakefield, $100,000 for an unspecified marketing initiative in Worcester, and $50,000 each for a merry-go-round in Holyoke's Heritage State Park, and Boston's Caribbean Carnival Association.


Shirley Shillingford, president of the international association's Boston chapter, was reluctant to say exactly how state money was spent in years past.


"Yes, the state gives us $50,000, but that's a joke compared to what we have to spend," she said of the annual Caribbean festival. "I get ticked off when people call and ask how much money everything costs."


Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, D-Boston, who put the earmark in the budget, said the organization is forced to complete detailed expense reports before being reimbursed by the state.


"Our tourism dollars are spent on a number of cultural events, especially those that bring large crowds to the state," said Wilkerson, who has been scrutinized for questionable campaign spending in the past. "It's a completely volunteer organization that puts on a party for 500,000 people. I think $50,000 is pretty good bang for the buck."


Vallee, whose committee position gives him clout over the Legislature's final budget, is trying to make sure local spending doesn't become a free-for-all.


"They didn't put me in Ways and Means to say yes to people, they put me here to say no," he said. "To (get funding) once, even if you're from my town, you have to justify it, but to do it twice you have to show me results."


Last year Franklin used a $50,000 earmark for streetscaping, signs and to commission a bronze statue showcasing Horace Mann's local roots.


Vallee, who worked with Sen. Scott Brown, R-Wrentham, to put the same earmark in the 2008 budget, said he was shocked by how much the town accomplished with the relatively small amount of money.


"I see the direct impact," he said. "There is no planning being done with this money. It is an anomaly."


Lindsey Parietti of The MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, Mass.) can be reached at lpariett@cnc.com.