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Taxpayer Groups Urge a Presidential Veto on Budget Busting Highway Bill
July 26, 2005
Dear President Bush:
Congress is nearing completion of a Highway Bill that will surely rank as one of the worst examples of pork-barrel spending of all time. If, as expected, it exceeds the spending limits you proposed, we're counting on you to stand up for conservative economic principles by vetoing the bill.
Congress appears ready to defy your budget request, ignore your veto threat and present you with a Highway Bill that likely will be at least $2 billion higher than the level deemed acceptable in your Statement of Administration Policy – and $30 billion higher than your initial budget proposal of $256 billion, itself a whopping 20% increase over the previous Highway Bill.
What is this extra spending buying for the taxpayers who voted for fiscal restraint in 2004? If the Conference Committee follows the House's lead, there will be $220 million for a 5.9-mile bridge connecting Gravina Island (population 50) to the Alaskan mainland. The cost of the bridge alone would be enough to buy every island resident his own personal Lear jet. All told, the House bill included more than 4,000 "high-priority" projects like this that, if included in the final bill, would fatten it with as much as $12 billion in additional unnecessary spending.
A bill like this from a Democrat-controlled Congress would have been met correctly with howls of indignation by Republicans. Today, unfortunately, Republicans are responsible for wasteful spending on a scale that the Democrats hardly dreamed of.
The one glimmer of hope has been the consistent warnings by senior officials in your Administration that if Congress sent you a bill with a higher price tag or fuzzy math, you would gladly break out your veto pen for the first time since taking office. If they send you this bill with excessive spending levels, as is now expected, we encourage you to veto it and be assured that we and taxpayers across America will support you in this effort.
By vetoing any Highway Bill that exceeds your $284 billion line in the sand, you will strengthen your ability to hold Congress to a firm budget and show that your veto threats do, in fact, have meaning. And if Congress over-rides you, you will have helped identify those members of Congress whose craving for political pork can't even be shamed by a presidential veto.