(Alexandria, VA) -- Congress has climbed two rungs up the ladder of fiscal responsibility, but is not quite out of the hole, according to the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU), which praised the 245 lawmakers who voted for earmark reform legislation that has languished in Congress for several months.
"This proposal that passed the House last night is merely one necessary step in the direction of fiscal responsibility, but it does not fully protect American taxpayers from the scourge of earmark abuse," NTU Government Affairs Manager Andrew Moylan noted. "It is sad, however, that federal indictments and prison sentences have to be issued in order for Congress to clean up its own act." NTU has long supported legislation 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 recently worked with over 80 citizen groups to provide "transparency" through the creation of a searchable database for federal grants and contracts. These efforts have achieved some legislative success in spite of vehement opposition from entrenched Congressional appropriators.
According to Moylan, the recently-enacted legislative package exempts certain provisions from the earmarking disclosure requirements, so the possibility remains that lawmakers could sneak in more pork barrel projects. "Members of the 110th Congress should take it upon themselves to build upon this solid foundation and make earmark reform truly comprehensive. In order to achieve this laudable end, Congress must eliminate these loopholes," Moylan noted.
Beyond piecemeal earmark reform, NTU would like to see Congress take up other fiscal restraint measures before the November elections. Some of the proposals include: passing a legislative line item veto, entitlement reform, a Balanced Budget Amendment, and budget process reform that will significantly trim unfunded liabilities.
"Congress is finally beginning to heed the will of American taxpayers when it comes to earmarking," Moylan concluded. "With the further strengthening of earmark reform, perhaps the Bridge to Nowhere and other needless projects will end up where they belong: in the dustbin of history, an outlier from an era of fiscal indulgence."
NTU is a non-profit citizen group working for lower taxes and smaller government at all levels. Note: Numerous commentaries and studies on earmark reform, along with details on federal transparency, are available online at www.ntu.org.