WASHINGTON – Federal “pork-barrel” funding is already $2.5 billion ahead of last year’s mark, according to a report released Wednesday by Citizens Against Government Waste.
With eight of 13 federal funding bills approved by Congress, 1996’s pork tips the scales at $12.5 billion, compared to $10 billion for all bills last year, said CAGW’s director of research, David Williams.
In looking for waste in government spending, CAGW targets projects that serve only a local or special interest, were not discussed in congressional hearings and were not awarded on a competitive basis.
The nonprofit, nonpartisan group criticized House Appropriations subcommittee members Steny Hoyer, D-Mitchellville, and Frank Wolf, R-Vienna, for their backing of $5 million to create telecommuting centers in their districts for federal workers.
“If [they] believe that this project – which has a 110 percent utilization rate, reduces congestion on our roads, provides a cleaner environment and enables users … to spend more time with their families – is a waste, so be it,” Hoyer said.
“It is ironic that they attack a project being touted by private companies as the wave of the future,” he added.
The “1996 Congressional Pig Book Summary” also cited as wasteful $1.2 million for potato research, of which less than $20,000 went to the University of Maryland.
And it cited $370,000 approved for aquaculture.
The University of Maryland is using that money for research into commercial spawning of striped bass in enclosed tanks, said Kevin Miller, assistant to the director at the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station at College Park.
The summary found that seven of the eight funding bills already passed by Congress are an average of 11 percent leaner.
Yet the total rose because of a 133 percent increase in pork spending on defense, including $32.9 million for military construction in Virginia, $19.5 million in Pennsylvania and $3.5 million in Maryland.
Among projects specially singled out for criticism was a $9.9 million renovation of training and barracks facilities at Fort Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania – a post scheduled for closing. Pennsylvania is the home state of Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, an Appropriations Committee member.
A spokeswoman for Specter said the facilities will be used by the state’s National Guard.
Other high military expenditures included $19.5 million for 135 units of family housing at Fort Lee in Petersburg, Va.; $11 million for barracks renovation at Fort Eustis in Newport News, Va.; $2.7 million for a maintenance shop at Camp Fretterd in Baltimore County, Md.; and $800,000 for a housing office and self-help center at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Two other multi-million dollar military construction appropriations were in Pennsylvania: $6 million for the foundry at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and $3.3 million for a Scranton maintenance shop. -30-