It's not much of a consolation, but taxpayers writing the IRS checks this year can take a bit of comfort in the fact that the federal government is spending fewer of those hard-earned dollars on pork-barrel projects.
In its annual "Pig Book" released Wednesday, the Citizens Against Government Waste said pork-barrel spending projects in fiscal year 2010 dropped by 10%, and the total tax dollars spent on them dropped by 15%, compared to the previous year. Still, the 9,129 projects earmarked this year cost taxpayers $16.5 billion.
Some of the noteworthy porkers this year include: $465 million for the Joint Strike Fighter alternate engine; $349,000 for swine and other waste management in North Carolina; $500,000 for Brown Tree Snakes control and interdiction in Guam; $2.57 million in potato research; and $406,000 for an anti-recidivism prisoner education program at Glenville State College in West Virginia.
'Taxpayers Are Enraged'
"Recent actions in (Washington) indicate that politicians from both parties recognize that taxpayers are enraged about the broken spending process in Washington," says Citizens Against Government Waste president Tom Schatz. "Unfortunately, the 2010 Congressional Pig Book illustrates that most members of Congress still aren't willing to eliminate the practice."
But with any financial report, some recipients of the money point out that there's more to the story than who got how much. Some of the pork-barrel spending is being used to create more tax dollars, recipients point out.
The citizen's group began its annual report 20 years ago, when pork-barrel spending was listed at $3.2 billion for a modest 546 projects. A peak was reached in 2006, with $29 billion spent on these projects. Taxpayers may remember the $50 million in funding for an indoor rain forest in Iowa and $50,000 for a tea pot museum in North Carolina.
Hawaii Is Pork King
The 2010 projects are also broken down by state. The biggest recipient this year is Hawaii with $326 earmarked in pork projects, which translates to $251 per capita, or per state resident. At the opposite end is Wyoming, with $8.3 billion in pork or $12.28 per capita.
Taxpayers may never know where some of the money is being spent. The group reports that Defense Appropriations Act contained 35 anonymous projects worth $6 billion.
A "pork" project is a line-item in an appropriations bill that designates tax dollars for a specific purpose by passing the established budgetary procedures. To qualify as pork, a project must meet one of seven criteria that were developed in 1991 by group.
Not Always Competitively Awarded
Those criteria include: requested by only one chamber of Congress; not specifically authorized; not competitively awarded; not requested by the President; greatly exceeds the President's budget request or the previous year's funding; not the subject of congressional hearings; or serves only a local or special interest.
The Portsmouth Music Hall in New Hampshire had the dubious honor of being highlighted by the group for taking $1 million in federal funds.
Partricia Lynch, the CEO of the music hall, makes no excuses, saying the $1 million easily creates $5.5 million in annual spending in Portsmouth. It helps create jobs, not just at the music hall, but for a variety of businesses. Lynch points out that the music hall is the reason that the town of 2,200 has over 200 restaurants.
Renewed Spotlight on Government
"We are an economic engine for the region," Lynch says. "That money is returned to taxpayers many times over through the creation of jobs and business. Think about the related spending we create: parking, restaurants, shopping and over-night stays."
Another project on the list is the Presidio Heritage Center in San Francisco.
Clay Harrell, spokesperson for the Presidio Trust, a group in charge of preserving the historic Presidio Park, acknowledged the renewed spotlight on government spending particularly in a down economy. But he says the $5 million in federal money being used to preserve a historic buildings in the park is worth the cost.
"We leverage that money to generate money from the private sector and it helps reach our mandate of becoming financially independent," he said.
The Pig Book's Oinkers of 2010:
The Dunder-head Mifflin Award
to Senator Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Representative Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) for $200,000 for design and construction of a small business incubator and multipurpose center in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
The Thad the Impaler Award
to Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) for $490 million in pork.
The Hal Bent on Earmarking Award
to Representative Harold "Hal" Rogers (R-Ky.) for $10 million for the National Institute for Hometown Security.
The Little Engine That Couldn't Award
for $465 million for the Joint Strike Fighter alternate engine.
The Narcissist Award
to Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) for $7,287,000 to continue the Harkin Grant program and to Senator Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) for $7 million for the Robert C. Byrd Institute of Advanced Flexible Manufacturing Systems.
The Steak Through the Heart of Taxpayers Award
to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Representative Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas) for $693,000 for beef improvement research.
The Sapping the Taxpayers Award
for $4.8 million for wood utilization research in 11 states requested by 13 senators and 10 representatives.
The Jekyll and Hyde Award
to Representative Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) for his ever-changing stance on earmarks; first signing a no-earmark pledge, then receiving $21 million in earmarks, then supporting the Republican earmark moratorium.
The Kick in the Asp Award
to Delegate Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam) for $500,000 for Brown Tree Snakes control and interdiction in Guam.
The Plane Waste Award
to Senators Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Representative Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) for $3.5 million for the National Institute for Aviation Research.
The Do You Want Fries with That Award
for $2.57 million in potato research in four states requested by five senators and five representatives.
The Putting on the Pork Award
to Representative Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) for $400,000 for restoration and renovation of the historic Ritz Theater in Newburgh, N.Y.
The Lights! Camera! Earmark! Award
for Representative Diane Watson (D-Calif.) for $100,000 for career exploration and training for at-risk youths for jobs in filmmaking at the Duke Media Foundation in Hollywood.
The An Earmark Grows in Brooklyn Award
to Representative Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) for $400,000 for construction and renovation for safety improvements at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
Less Taxpayer Money Going to Pork in 2010