How should federal funds for public works
projects and other purposes by appropriated?

The Virtual Editorials - E14 (Aug. 7 2005) - Dennis Foster

Introduction:  The federal highway bill was passed this week.  Ugh!

Virtual Editorial #14

     Why not ask, “How should a dog chase its own tail?”  Why should the federal government fund local projects?  It is a flawed arrangement – it is inefficient, it is wasteful and it is corrupting.  There were two “earmarked” allocations in 1956, and over 6,300 in this recent bill!

     Shouldn’t Congressman Young go to jail for hijacking $300+ million for a “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska?  And, what about our own representative, who voted for the bridge in order to bring home his own pork – especially the wasted money on transit buses and the indefensible funding of the Grand Canyon’s Greenway?  At least Arizona Representative Jeff Flake has moral backbone on this issue – he not only voted against this bill, his is the only congressional district in the nation that doesn’t receive a cent of these special earmarked funds.

     I would support a less despicable system that returned about 97% of transportation-related taxes back to the states, only with some general guidelines on how these funds should be allocated across interstate, federal, rural and urban systems.  The remaining 3% to be used only to assist the interstate system.

     Then, if I want really good pork, I’ll go to the Railroad Café.

Afterword:  Well, the RR Cafe really does have good pork.  I don't know why you can't find more pork dishes in other restaurants.  Last time I was there, I had pork enchiladas.  Yummy.  But, I also really like the pork stew that is occasionally offered for lunch.
     The highway funding circus can't get any worse, can it?  As of now, states are guaranteed to get back 90.5% of the tax revenues they raised.  So, it makes you wonder why the federal government bothers to collect it at all.  What is the point?  Well, the point is still about pork.  So, the other 9.5% is what we're talking about here.  These are the "earmarked" monies that go to pet projects that allow Congressmen everywhere to proudly proclaim, "I got that money for you."  Apparently, that money was about $14 million per district.  Jeff Flake said no, and asked that it just be returned to the AZ DOT, where they can best decide how to use these funds.
     The money that Rep. Renzi got for our area includes the awful Greenway project at the Grand Canyon.  There are two problems here.  First, the Grand Canyon has been charging higher rates for many years now - the "fee demonstration" monies.  They have collected over $100 million.  If the Greenway is so important, why can't they fund it?
     Then, there is the second problem with the Greenway.  It will run from Tusayan to the Visitor's Center.  Why would anyone want to use it?  It will not afford anyone a view of the Grand Canyon.  It won't be anywhere close.  It is a trail through the forest.  And, not just any trail through the forest.  This one will follow the power lines.  Scenic, it isn't.  I have actually walked that route before, but only after living, working and hiking in the Grand Canyon for many years.  It is a waste of funds.
     Both Arizona senators voted against this bill, but I am not sure if it was a principle thing, or a principal thing.  That is, the return to Arizona residents, of these earmarked funds, is the lowest in the nation, at about $23 per capita.  [The highest is Alaska, at over $1500.]  Perhaps, McCain and Kyl were just unhappy with the result?  That is possible, but both are movers and shakers.  So, I would expect that they could easily get a bigger piece of this porkpie for Arizona, but, for some reason, chose not too.

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