WASHINGTON – Maryland got $184 million in federal “pork-barrel” funding in fiscal 2005, a pork-per-capita spending rate that was slightly higher than the national average, a Washington watchdog group said Wednesday.
The annual “Pig Book” from Citizens Against Government Waste said Congress added 13,997 pork-barrel projects, worth $27.3 billion, to the fiscal 2005 budget. The number of projects was up 31 percent from fiscal 2004 and the cost of pork rose 19 percent, the report said.
“This is legalized bribery in its worst form and it’s with our money,” said Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste.
The Pig Book defines pork by seven factors, including projects that are not in the president’s budget, are not specifically authorized, are not subject to competitive bidding or to formal hearings, among other factors.
Under that definition, Maryland projects categorized as pork included everything from $5 million for a Southern Maryland commuter bus initiative to $100,000 for the Children’s Chorus of Maryland to improve music education in Prince George’s County.
It also included $500,000 for St. Mary’s County to acquire and redevelop Lexington Manor, $1.5 million for a Chesapeake Bay restoration program and $72,750 to help the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation to construct a replica of Camden Yards in Aberdeen, among other projects.
But one man’s pork may be another man’s benefit.
Ripken Foundation spokesman John Maroon called the Pig Book “irresponsible” and “short-sighted.” He said the youth-sized stadium in Aberdeen is intended to let disadvantaged kids play baseball in a “lifetime experience” and learn about teamwork.
“The kids that we are affecting would never afford to do this on their own,” Maroon said. About 1,700 kids between 9 and 12 years played on the field in the last two summers, he said.
And Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, said funds to clean up the bay are not wasteful. He said improving the environment is important for the state’s economy, such as for agriculture, hunting, fishing and tourism, and that Chesapeake Bay funds should not be singled out as pork, because the bay has been underfunded.
“The biggest wasteful programs are those that exploit the natural environment for economic gain,” Gilchrest said.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, said in a prepared statement that he was “disappointed” that the Pig Book “does not recognize the value of investing in projects and programs that benefit millions of Marylanders.”
But Schatz said lawmakers like Hoyer and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., often get more pork for their states because they sit on appropriations committees.
David Williams, vice president of policy for Citizens Against Government Waste, said Mikulski could make a difference by just choosing to stop the practice of pork-barrel budgeting.
“She is one of the leaders of the appropriations committee,” Williams said. “She really, in the VA/HUD (Veterans Affairs/Housing and Urban Development) appropriations, got a lot of money.”
But he said Mikulski’s efforts pale next to those of Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, who brought home $985 in federal pork spending for every resident, or Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., whose state was the fourth-highest at $220 in federal pork dollars per person.
Maryland’s per capita pork funding of $33.19 was slightly higher than the national per capita spending of $33.03 in fiscal 2005. The state moved from 30th place in 2004 to 29th place in 2005 in terms of pork per capita, Schatz said
Maryland is “pretty much in the middle . . . and we think that’s better than being further up,” he said.
But Williams said that means Marylanders are paying for everyone else’s pork. If there was an equitable distribution for each state, Maryland might be getting more money, he said.
“It’s a question of how the country should be spending tax dollars,” said Schatz, who supported “a process that is fair to everyone.”
-30- CNS 04-06-05