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Thursday, December 15, 2005

It's Back! The Bridge to Nowhere, That is

Alaska Coalition's Aurah Landau emails report that Gov. Frank Murkowski confirmed today he is moving forward with plans to build "the bridge to nowhere."

"Alaska’s Governor Murkowski unveiled his Administration’s 2007 budget in today's speech to the Commonwealth North Forum in Anchorage.
"Of the $454 million blank check Senator Stevens secured when he removed the 2 'Bridge to Nowhere' earmarks, $94 million will go to the Knik Arm Bridge and $91 million to the Gravina Island Bridge. An additional $45 million will be spent on extending the dead end further on the Juneau road.
"Though the bridges haven’t been started, federal money has already been and will likely be spent on Congressional lobbying according to the Anchorage Daily News. Since the Transportation Authorization bill runs through 2009, it’s possible that ALL of the 'Bridge to Nowhere' money will eventually be spent on the bridges, with funds doled out in future years."

How can this be? Simple. Remember the D.C. Two-Step? Talk a good case against excessive federal spending, but always find a way to get the pork back home. Folks back home - like former senator Murkowski - know what to do next.

In the case of the Bridge to Nowhere, the national uproar forced Congress to withdraw the funding as an earmark, but then when the furor died down, the money went to Alaska anyway. It just wasn't in the form of an earmark.

This is why Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, was, if anything, understating the nature of the Washington political establishment when he said this yesterday in a warning to colleagues:

"The final days of the congressional session are always a dangerous time for taxpayers. In the rush to leave town, Congress often throws caution to the wind and slips in last minute items that embarrass the institution when revealed.
"This year, taxpayers should be concerned about the possibility that the bill that funds the Department of Defense will become a vehicle for new and unrelated spending that will do nothing to help our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It's wrong for members of Congress to use our troops as political cover for new spending. If Senators want to pass additional funds related to hurricane relief or the avian flu, for example, those measures should be amendable and not attached to must-pass bills that cannot be amended.
"In the real world, American families make tough decisions and prioritize their spending when they face a crisis or uncertain times. Slipping in new spending items in bills that can't be amended tells taxpayers that Congress doesn't need to prioritize.
"The Senate can easily provide adequate funds for hurricane relief and avian flu preparation by eliminating less essential items in the budget. At a minimum, the Senate should have an honest debate about priorities.

"If Senators want to argue, for example, that it is more important to spend $27 billion on 13,977 earmarks (pork projects) than to prepare for a possible flu pandemic they should make that case.
"Congress can't have it both ways with the American people's hard-earned tax-dollars. If politicians want the political benefit of 'doing something' on hurricane relief or the avian flu they should pay for it, not pass on even more debt to our grandchildren."

Mr. Smith is strong and courageous but he needs reinforcements.