Thursday, September 29, 2005

Shaking out the pork barrel

Many of us, as we learned how the deferred levee maintenance at New Orleans contributed to the flooding after hurricane Katrina, also lamented the billions spent every year on pointless public works such as the planned Alaska "bridge to nowhere." That's a $225 million earmark item in the federal highway bill passed by Congress earlier this year.

One of those earmarks was for a $4 million parking garage in Bozeman, Mont., where civic boosters hope to buff up the city's downtown development potential. Some of the citizens of Bozeman began to say this month that the money would be better spent in Louisiana, and they asked the city council to send it back to Washington. The council rejected the thought.

But a movement has been born, and I think this will not be the last we will hear of it. There's a good report from the grass roots in today's New York Times. Read Timothy Egan's piece . Egan writes:
Sen. John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said all $25 billion in special projects -- called earmarks -- from the transportation bill could be deferred.

If you are open to deferring your own county's federal largesse, you might want to check in on what the movement's organizers are doing. Here's their website.

For more on how the pork barrel gets filled, you may visit San Francisco Weekly.

The movement is putting some heat on Rep. Don Young, the Alaskan who controls the transportation allocation process. The Fairbanks paper reported this week:
Young, along with Sens. Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski, earmarked more than $1 billion for Alaska in the transportation act, which President Bush signed in August. About $600 million was Alaska-bound through formula spending anyway--the earmarks just designated it for projects of the congressional delegation's choosing--but another $400 million was money above the formula.

The bridge over Knik Arm, just north of Anchorage, will receive a total of $230 million from the act. A bridge over Tongass Narrows at Ketchikan will get $223 million. Much of the money will be essentially deducted from the formula funds the state gets.

More from Fairbanks here.

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