Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Does Congress Spend Money Efficiently?

Since the Interstate 35W bridge collapse, there has been a lot of discussion about federal transportation money spent over the past few years. A government watchdog group claims Congress approved billions of dollars for road and bridge repairs years ago, but the group says that money has been poorly spent. "There is a big story here that people are not getting and it really goes back to the 2005 transportation bill where Congress loaded it up with crap and they really should be embarrassed at themselves," says David Williams, with the group Citizens Against Government Waste. Williams said Congress wasted $20 billion on pork barrel projects in that transportation bill. Money, he says could have gone to road and bridge repairs.A local news investigation from 2006 showed nearly $800,000 of federal funds were used to build four bus shelters in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. In addition, Congress allocated $50,000 for a bus stop at the University of Minnesota. "When you build a bus depot or a bus stop or anything like that, you can have a ribbon cutting. You get your photo in the paper and on the local news, you look like this great guy because you just got funding, but in reality the more important things are the ones with no photo ops," Williams said. Williams also points out money he says has been wasted like millions on flowers to decorate a California freeway. President Bush signed the bill authorizing funds to be used for the flowers. But Williams agrees with the president, the problem begins with Congress. "Each member on that committee gets to set his priorities first and then what's left over is set aside to funding, and whatevers left over is spent through a funding formula. That's not the way to protect the people's money," the president said.