Dr. Coburn Says Additional Transportation Maintenance Funds Should Come from Pork, not Higher Gas Taxes
Coburn readying amendment to transportation spending bill
U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) today called on his colleagues to finance additional bridge and road maintenance spending with a decrease in politically-motivated pork-barrel spending rather than an increase in the gas tax. Coburn added that he is readying an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2008 Transportation Appropriations Bill to achieve that goal.
"The American people understand that transportation earmarks often have more to do with a politician's re-election campaign than the true priorities of each state's department of transportation. Congress' choices in this area have a major impact on public safety. The hard reality according to the American Society of Civil Engineers is that substandard road conditions contribute to deaths of more than 13,000 Americans every year. If there was ever a case that highlighted the true cost of Congress' reckless spending habits, this is it," Dr. Coburn said.
"While proponents of raising the gas tax like House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN) are right that we can't have a bake sale for bridges,' we can have a pig roast. Spending less on pork will go a long way toward improving the safety of our roads and bridges," Dr. Coburn said.
The 1981 transportation bill contained only 10 earmarks. President Reagan vetoed a transportation bill in 1987 that contained 121 earmarks, saying, "I haven't seen this much lard since I handed out blue ribbons at the Iowa State Fair." In 2005, Congress passed a transportation bill that included an astonishing 6,371 earmarks at a cost of $27.3 billion.
"If Congress had directed the money we spent on pork in the 2005 highway bill to maintenance we could have repaired more than 30,000 structurally deficient bridges," Dr. Coburn added.
"I applaud Transportation Secretary Mary Peters for opposing a gas tax increase and for highlighting the true source of the problem: Congress' irresponsible choices. The American people are demanding that Congress put the public's safety ahead of the political safety of career politicians. I intend to present the Senate with that choice next week," Dr. Coburn said.
The Fiscal Year 2008 Transportation Appropriations bill now before the Senate contains more than 500 earmarked projects costing more than $2 billion. These earmarks include nearly $12 million dedicated to bicycle paths.