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Taxpayers Oppose the "Billion-Dollar Fish Fry" Project

May 6, 2008

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the members of the National Taxpayers Union and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, we urge you to oppose efforts to pass the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act either as a stand-alone bill (S. 27) or as part of a larger omnibus package. This activist-imposed arrangement is a clear waste of taxpayer dollars and should be rejected by the Senate.

Special interests are pushing S. 27 as a way to "settle" their two-decade-old lawsuit against the federal government (specifically, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation) to restore the salmon population to the historical outlines of San Joaquin River. Even though the targeted segment of riverbed has been dry for 75 years (thanks in part to a dam California voters approved in 1933), these same activists are prepared to spend considerable taxpayer resources in an attempt to bring back a minimum of 500 salmon to the area.

While it is unclear exactly how much money will have to be expended to meet the settlement prescriptions outlined in S. 27, there is no doubt that federal taxpayers will be on the hook for a significant sum. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing a similar House bill could cost federal taxpayers $500 million (and California taxpayers another $250 million). Other parties have estimated the real governmental cost of the agreement to be up to $1.1 billion.

The federal spending share for this project (as estimated by CBO) equals the annual amount of federal income taxes paid by 123,244 filers who have adjusted gross incomes between $30,000 and $75,000. That means 123,244 middle-class filers would send one year's worth of income taxes to Washington just to satisfy the voracious spending demands of one environmental lawsuit. Tax filing time has just passed, and most Americans wouldn't want to see their check to Uncle Sam go to pay for boondoggle projects like this one. Surely, there are more pressing demands, such as shoring up entitlement funds or reducing tax burdens, than buying 500 salmon.

Don't put taxpayers on the hook for the "Billion-Dollar Fish Fry." Reject S. 27.


Kristina Rasmussen
Director of Government Affairs
National Taxpayers Union

David Williams
Vice President, Policy
Council for Citizens Against Government Waste