WASHINGTON – A study released Wednesday criticized two members of the Maryland congressional delegation for adding to the problem of government waste.
Citizens Against Governmental Waste released its annual “Pig Book” of wasteful government spending, chiding Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Baltimore, and Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, for their contributions.
Mikulski and Hoyer were cited for requesting funds for nine separate Maryland projects, which Congress approved last year.
They are the only two Maryland members who sit on congressional committees that appropriate money.
Mikulski requested $5 million in the fiscal year 1997 budget for an upgrade of the drinking water system at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. She also asked for $2.15 million for a family support center at Andrews Air Force Base.
Other funds requested by the two included $8.2 million for a new classroom building at the Secret Service training center in Beltsville.
Spokesmen for Mikulski and Hoyer questioned whether the requests were wasteful.
“It’s highly debatable,” said Hoyer press secretary Jerry Irvine. “How much do they actually look at these projects?”
Hoyer also was chastised for requesting $10 million for laboratory space at Patuxent River Naval Air Warfare Center in his 5th District in Southern Maryland.
Irvine argued that the project at the Naval air base is a “good government project which would save money in the long run.” The facility is set up to check airplanes for safety on the ground, rather in the air, which he said is more costly.
“Most people would agree that projects involving the Secret Service, the military and the environment would have legitimate national, not just local interest,” Irvine said.
Pork-barrel spending refers to projects that are not competitively awarded, not the subject of congressional hearings or serve only a local or special interest. Often members of the Senate and House Appropriations committees slip these provisions into larger bills near the end of the budget process, the study said.
Maryland ranked 29th in per capita pork-barrel spending, with $9.06 spent per person.
The national average per person was $9.08.
The group reported that Hawaii had the highest per capita average, at about $131 per person. Michigan had the lowest, at 96 cents per capita.
As Tom Schatz, president of the nonprofit watchdog group, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., stood at the podium in the National Press Building, a pig named “Porky” ran past. A person in a pig suit stood nearby to protest the projects contained in last year’s 13 appropriations bills.
This is the eighth straight year the group has studied the appropriations bills and released a Pig Book.
This year, the group found close to 1,600 pork-barrel projects which it says adds up to $14.5 billion, an increase of 16 percent from the previous year.
In all, Maryland received more than $45 million for pork- barrel projects, the study said.
“Congress should cut the fat and let the chips fall where they may,” Schatz said.
Supporters of the group say enactment of the line-item veto in January should help President Clinton put an end to pork- barrel spending. The law gives the president the ability to veto specific provisions of funding bills, rather than veto an entire bill. “Now that the president has that authority, there is no excuse,” McCain said. -30-