(Washington, DC) -- The "Ending Earmarks Express" could be the vehicle that drives Congress toward a more prudent fiscal destination -- and the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU), which joined lawmakers and other groups at the kick-off event today, is revving up its membership. The multi-state bus tour is designed to call public attention to questionable budget practices.
"Simply by hitting the road, this tour demonstrates Washington's wasteful ways on wheels," NTU Vice President for Development Lee MacVaugh noted. "After all, federal transportation spending is larded with layers of pork." NTU supports legislation proposed by Representative Jeff Flake and Senator John McCain that would allow Members of Congress to expose waste during the budget process and then subject it to deletion.
Last year NTU and other citizen groups highlighted the massive abuse of taxpayer money in the Highway Bill, as well as accounting gimmicks that masked the actual cost of the legislation ($295 billion). In addition, NTU estimated that over 10 percent of the Highway Bill's earmarks had nothing to do with roads or infrastructure. Some of the questionable projects included $3 million for museum renovations in Warren, Ohio, $3 million for a nature preserve near Chicago, and $9 million for a bike trail in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
According to MacVaugh, some lawmakers' appetites for a 12-course pork banquet reflect a disregard for the entire budget process. This trend has been illustrated in a recent analysis by the National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) that tracked sponsorship of Congressional legislation. NTUF's BillTally accounting software discovered that over 21 bills in the House were introduced to raise spending for every bill to lower spending. In addition, only 40 Representatives and Senators had legislative agendas that would on net reduce annual federal spending. Finally, if all proposed spending in the House became law at once, annual federal outlays would increase by $1.9 trillion.
"These disturbing statistics only emphasize the need to shed light on the arcane and flawed budget process," MacVaugh continued. "Our nation's fiscal health cannot improve if politicians are allowed free reign over wasteful earmarks."
"If the pork that is exposed to sunlight looks and smells rotten enough, then the public's disgust might just embarrass lawmakers into cleaning up the mess," MacVaugh concluded. "But Representatives and Senators need the proper tools to undertake this vital task. The earmark reforms proposed by Senator McCain and Congressman Flake will equip conscientious lawmakers with the means to make a positive difference for taxpayers."
NTU is a non-profit citizen group working for lower taxes and smaller government at all levels. Note: Numerous commentaries and studies on transportation policy, along with details on BillTally, are available online at www.ntu.org.