WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) today cautiously applauded news that earmarks for two bridges in Alaska could be removed from the conference version of the fiscal 2006 transportation appropriations bill. Though the final conference report has not been finalized, Sen. Ted Stevens' (R-Alaska) office has told the Associated Press of a tentative agreement that will eliminate the mandates that $229 million be spent on "Don Young's Way" and $223 million be spent on the "Bridge to Nowhere" linking Ketchikan to an island with 50 residents. Alaska will still get the money as part of its allotment under the federal highway formula, but the projects will have to compete with the state's other transportation priorities.
"Congress should eliminate all the earmarks and cut the bloated highway bill by 10 percent or more," CAGW Vice President David Williams said. "Projects should receive funding only through a competitive process, not based on the whims of narcissistic members of Congress."
Signed into law in August, the Transportation Equity Act (H.R. 3) authorizes spending $286.4 billion over the next six years. The bill includes $24 billion for 6,500 pork-barrel projects, amounting to 9 percent of total spending. In place of spending $223 million on the "Bridge to Nowhere," the federal government could buy every resident of Gravina Island a Lear jet. Other projects in the highway bill include: $16 million for the Briggs- Delaine-Pearson Connector (also referred to as a "Bridge to Nowhere"), connecting two rural counties in South Carolina despite the fact that another bridge already exists 10 miles down the river; $2.75 million for the National Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio; $2 million for construction of a parking lot at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas; $1.6 million for completion of the American Tobacco Trail in North Carolina; $600,000 for horse trails in Scott County, Va.
Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) has introduced legislation (H.R. 4071) that would allow states to disregard earmark instructions and spend federal transportation funds as they see fit. It would also rescind 10 percent of funding in the bill for deficit reduction and to offset hurricane recovery spending. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) proposed two amendments to eliminate highway pork. The first amendment would have rescinded funding for the two Alaska bridges and redirected $125 million of the savings to hurricane recovery in the Gulf Coast. The second amendment targeted $950,000 for a parking facility for a private museum in Omaha, Nebraska, $500,000 for a sculpture park in Seattle, Washington, and $200,000 for an animal facility in Westerly, Rhode Island. The Senate rejected both amendments to the Transportation, Treasury, HUD, Judiciary, and District of Columbia Appropriations Act (H.R. 3058) by votes of 18 to 82 and 13 to 86. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) threatened to resign from the Senate and declared that he would "be taken out of here on a stretcher" if the amendment passed.
"The elimination of the Alaska bridge earmarks is a small victory for every taxpayer who protested this ridiculous waste of their hard-earned money. Now if Sen. Stevens would only follow through on his threat, Christmas will come early for taxpayers," Williams concluded.
Citizens Against Government Waste is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, mismanagement, and abuse in government.
DATASOURCE: Citizens Against Government Waste
CONTACT: Daytime contact, Jessica Shoemaker, +1-202-467-5318, or After
hours contact, Tom Finnigan, +1-202-253-3852, both of Citizens Against
Web site: http://www.cagw.org/