Sunday, August 05, 2007

Pork Barrel Politics Kill Redux

Senator John McCain gets in on the Porkopolis Pork Barrel Politics Kill meme:
McCain raps Congress for bridge collapse
By MIKE GLOVER, Associated Press Writer
Sat Aug 4, 2:04 PM ET

ANKENY, Iowa - Republican John McCain said Saturday that Congress could share in the blame for the Minnesota bridge collapse because lawmakers diverted billions of dollars in transportation money from road work to pet projects.

I think perhaps you can make the argument that part of the responsibility lies with the Congress of the United States," the Arizona senator said.

McCain said Congress spent roughly $20 billion on special-interest projects when it approved a new highway bill, signed into law by President Bush.

"We spent approximately $20 billion of that money on pork barrel, earmark projects," said McCain. "Maybe if we had done it right, maybe some of that money would have gone to inspect those bridges and other bridges around the country. Maybe the 200,000 people who cross that bridge every day would have been safer than spending $233 million of your tax dollars on a bridge in Alaska to an island with 50 people on it."

McCain spoke during a town hall-style meeting with activists, saying he was angered not just by Congress wasting money on special projects, but also by it approving reform packages he labeled a sham.

"I'm angry today because we just had a chance to reform this process in Washington and we punted," said McCain. "We pushed off on the American people a joke and a sham in the name of earmark reform."...
Update: CQ's What Constituted A High Priority For Transportation Funding?:
...Those are just the earmarks that went to actual transportation projects [for Minnesota projects in that 2005 transportation bill]. We also had the following funded as high priorities in the monies provided by the federal highway bill:

* University of Minnesota ($16 million)

* Recreational visitor center in Virginia, MN ($1.3 million)

* Bike trail construction along TH 11 ($540,000)

* Construct bicycle and pedestrian trails in Cuyuna Recreation Area ($700,000)

* Heritage Center at the Grand Portage National Monument ($1.4 million)

* Program for Replacement and upgrade of deficient township signs, statewide ($3 million)

All of these monies fell outside the control of MnDOT prioritization, thanks to the earmarks made by our Congressional delegation. In total, this amounted to $478 million, roughly one-seventh of the state's federal highway funds for the five-year spending plan. Most of the earmarks have nothing to do with federal interstates but with rural roads maintained by the state and local governments.

Clearly, Minnesota did not lack for funds to repair or replace the bridge. However, it appears that the priorities set by our representatives managed to hamstring state priorities for those funds to some extent. Before we start raising taxes that will undoubtedly create more opportunities for earmarking and meddlesome politicking, let's (a) find out why the bridge collapsed, and (b) start demanding better control and prioritization of the funds we already get.


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