April 29, 2002
Spending will probably grow by 8 percent or more this year and at least that in the 2003 fiscal year, unless the administration can block or slow down Congress' election-year vote-buying spree, says columnist Donald Lambro.
One reason is the congressional practice of allowing members to insert into appropriations bills special earmarked funds not requested by the executive branch.
Last year alone, lawmakers stuffed 7,803 earmarked items into House and Senate money bills, totaling about $15 billion. Among them:
- $50,000 for a tattoo removal program in San Luis Obispo County, Calif.
- $500,000 to build a bike trail at North Dakota's Fort Union Trading Post.
- $2 million for the Center on Obesity at West Virginia University.
- $270,000 to fight the teen-age "Goth culture" in Blue Springs, Mo.
- $150,000 for therapeutic horseback riding in Apple Valley, Calif.
Lambro says that these provisions frequently tap into programs intended to help low-income people to bankroll projects sought by special interests.
Last year, for example, appropriations for the Department Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant program, which is supposed to let local officials decide how to spend money to help depressed communities, contained 256 earmarks. These included $200,000 to restore the Lao Theater in Wailuku Town, Hawaii, $100,000 for the Alabama Quail Trail, and $250,000 to refurbish the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York.
Source: Donald Lambro, "Squealing chorus on pork barrel spending," Washington Times, April 29, 2002.
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