BALTIMORE – A coalition of environmental and taxpayer groups thinks the government should stop worrying about reforming social programs and take on an even bigger budget drain — corporate welfare.
In a national report released at a Baltimore press conference Tuesday, the groups targeted 57 “environmentally harmful” federal programs for $36 billion in budget savings over the next five years.
The report did not break down how spending cuts might affect Maryland businesses. But advocates said everyone shares the cost of “polluter pork.”
“The bottom line is that whether these programs are here in Maryland or not, Maryland taxpayers are paying the price,” said Susanna Bartoldus of the Maryland Public Interest Research Group, a consumer and environmental advocacy group.
The “Green Scissors 1997” report recommends cutting out certain federal subsidies for tobacco farmers, nuclear reactor research and a program conceived in the Depression to jack up the price of peanuts.
It also analyzes the taxpayer costs of numerous energy, public land, waterway, agriculture, road construction and international marketing subsidies currently funded by the federal government.
Both environmentalists and organizations seeking to downsize big government say that many of these costs should be born by the industries they benefit.
“The Green Scissors report encourages the use of free-market economic forces to reduce both government waste and environmentally damaging activities,” said Tony Cobb, speaking for the Republicans for Environmental Protection.
“It targets pork-barrel spending that depletes our forests, pollutes our air and water, harms fish and wildlife and soaks the taxpayer,” he said.
The report was endorsed by 23 advocacy groups with a range of platforms — including Friends of the Earth, American Lung Association, Military Production Network, Taxpayers for Common Sense and the Sierra Club.
“Especially when the government is talking about balancing the budget, the Green Scissors report is a good tool for the Clinton Administration to use,” Bartoldus said.
Some of the recommendations in the report include:
* Cutting a Forest Service program that builds roads for logging companies to remove timber. Savings: $250 million.
* Requiring mining companies to pay royalties on the minerals they extract from federal land. Savings: $1 billion
* Charging ranchers higher fees to let livestock graze on federal land. Savings: $250 million
* Eliminating irrigation subsidies for agribusiness while keeping them for small family farms. Savings: $2.2 billion
* Adjusting fees that companies pay to dispose of nuclear waste to reflect rising inflation. Savings: $315 million
* Asking trucking companies that carry heavy loads on highways to pay “truck axle user fees” that would go toward road repairs. Savings: not available.
* Eliminating an international marketing program which pays for multi-million dollar companies to advertise their product overseas. Savings: $346 million
Supporters of the “Green Scissors” report said that corporations should share in the pain that federal budget cuts require. They argued the government has looked to cut welfare, medicare and social programs that primarily affect poor people and regular citizens.
“Despite a few important victories, polluter pork programs have largely escaped the budget ax,” Bartoldus said.