Saturday, September 08, 2007

Common Sense from Sen. Tom Coburn

"The 1981 transportation bill contained only 10 earmarks. President Reagan vetoed a transportation bill in 1987 that contained 121 earmarks, saying, 'I haven't seen this much lard since I handed out blue ribbons at the Iowa State Fair.' In 2005, Congress passed a transportation bill that included an astonishing 6,371 earmarks at a cost of $27.3 billion.


The American people understand that transportation earmarks often have more to do with a politician's re-election campaign than the true priorities of each state's department of transportation. While proponents of raising the gas tax are right that 'we can't have a bake sale for bridges,' we can have a pig roast. Spending less on pork will go a long way toward improving the safety of our roads and bridges. If Congress had directed the money we spent on pork in the 2005 highway bill to maintenance we could have repaired more than 30,000 structurally deficient bridges."

- Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, 9/7/07


Hooda Thunkit said...

We need to pass or reject each and every piece of legislation on its own merits and by itself, not attached to other legislation.

It, of course, will take about a year though, before the pork goes away, and good riddance I say!

Tim Higgins said...

The transportation bill, as it it used these days by Congress, should make us wonder whether discussion about the "Line Item Veto" should be reopened. This appears to offer the only potential solution that I know of to get our Representatives' noses out of the Government trough.

save_the_rustbelt said...

Earmarks are used to counter politics at the state level.

The U.S. 30 "kill zone" is finally being upgraded and completed, 30 years late, only because Mike Oxley earmarked the money.

Voinovich and Taft could have cared less.

Maggie Thurber said...

s_t_r - and think of how many other needed roads and transportation infrastructures could be addressed if we didn't have, in the current bill, the following:

* $3 million to renovate and expand the National Packard Museum and adjacent historic Packard facilities in Warren, Ohio

*$1.3 million to construct a recreational visitor center on the Mesabi Trail in Virginia, Minnesota

*$500,000 to establish a transportation museum on the Navy Pier in Chicago, Illinois

*$300,000 for Yonkers, New York, to buy a trolley

*$200,000 to construct a bicycle path in Petal, Mississippi

Black Swamp Road Geek said...

Why so many earmarks? It is simple. FHWA policy for new access to an interstate highway requires 50% alternate or local financing. Since local governements are strapped they go to their congressman for an earmark. Yes there are an awful lot of stupid line items in the transportation bill but the few billion dollars that these make up would not be adequate to address the needs of our country. The federal gas tax has not been increased since 1997. Revenue does not grow at a significant enough rate (almost flat) to finance the double digit inflation that has hit the construction industry the last several years. Something must be done because people are already losing their jobs in the engineering end. The construction industry will be next when the states will not be able to build the projects ready for bid.
The infrastructure is a responsibility of government. Period. The interstate highway system is critical to the moving of goods, citizens and military around our country. And highway funding is one of very few ways that the government can truly create jobs. Every billion dollars spent on highways leads to 45,000 jobs.
Unfortunately neither side of the aisle has been getting this right.

Maggie Thurber said...

Personally, BSRG, there's a ton of other spending I'd eliminate in favor of the infrastructure...but I appreciate your point.

And, while eliminating those earmarks won't be enough to do what needs to be done, it'd certainly be a start...and I'd be happy with that to begin with.

Black Swamp Road Geek said...

What needs to happen is the FHWA needs to develop policies that empower the states to spend the money as the states see fit. Similar to education, the unfunded mandates eat up the dollars as well.

The earmarks will not take care of the inflation hitting the industry. How else, other than a gas tax increase would you propose to handle this.

Even Ronald Reagan raised the gas tax

Maggie Thurber said...

BSRG - just because Reagan did it, doesn't mean it's the best thing today...

First, it's not my job to fund this task - but it is the job of the reps. and sens. we elect. I'd rather you ask this question of Marcy Kaptur, Sherrod Brown and George Voinovich, although they may all agree with you that raising taxes is the solution.

Personally, I'd start eliminating agencies and commissions (Dept. of Education, HUD, HHS, Dept. of Energy, Corporation For National Service, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, Drug Enforcement Administration, FHFB, Inter-American Foundation, National Council on Disability, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for Humanities, NSSB, PAHO, and the Postal Service, to name a few...)

I'm sure this would give our federal government a place to start with funding infrastructure improvements...

The problem is that there isn't the political will for our federal government to go back to the Constitution and exercise only the powers that are provided to them - which, btw, do not include roads, bridges and the like. Originally, those were the purview of the states, so some could even make the argument that the solutiion to the Feds not having enough money for transportation spending is to let the states do it - but eliminate the federal departments that oversee it and allow the states to keep the money and spend it how they see fit.

again - lack of political will stands in the way.

save_the_rustbelt said...

I agree on that, highway trust fund money should be used on --- highways!

This idea is too simple for the federal government (both parties).

Mark said...

The one thing that bothers me more than all the Cartyisms and the ignorance on the counsil -- the lack of a solid computer system with software that can spill out reports of what money is real and what the actual balance is no matter what the bank statement says. We really need to get a movement on Betty's behalf. It may cost a small fortune but down the road we might be able actually see daylight. Of course, if we allow the mayor to use the coffers as his own petty cash we will not be any better until the council realize their responsibilities and put a halt to spending without council approval.

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