U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released the following statement today after the Senate rejected Coburn amendments that would have allowed states to prioritize safety and maintenance ahead of pork-barrel projects favored by members of Congress and staff.
"Today's votes show that Congress continues to be tone deaf to the millions of Americans who want us to make common sense decisions about how we prioritize funds. My amendments would have allowed states to fund higher priority projects before they fund lower priority projects such as bike paths and museums. Yet, because Congress wants to protect the pork barrel status quo, we won't prioritize safety and common sense," Dr. Coburn said, noting that 13,000 Americans lost their lives last year because of unsafe roads or bridges, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, of the 601,396 bridges in the U.S. in 2008, 151,394 (25 percent) were deficient. This includes 71,461 (12 percent) "structurally deficient" bridges (those that show significant deterioration and have a reduced load-carrying capacity) and 79,933 (13 percent) "functionally obsolete" bridges (bridges that do not meet current design standards).
Meanwhile, $3.7 billion in transportation funding was obligated to 10,857 "transportation enhancement" projects between fiscal years 2004-2008. In addition, $833.5 million was authorized for Transportation Enhancement projects in FY 2009.
Coburn amendment 2371, which failed by a vote of 39 to 59, would have allowed states to opt-out of the federal requirement to set aside 10 percent of their surface transportation funding for "transportation enhancement" activities (i.e. bike paths, historic preservation, scenic beautification and museums) and shifted the funding to more pressing critical transportation needs such as repairing roads and bridges.
Coburn amendment 2372, which failed by a vote of 41 to 57, would have prohibited taxpayer dollars from being used to build or support museums.
Two Coburn amendments were accepted however: amendment 2374, which requires HUD to report to Congress on the total cost to taxpayers of the homes they own and amendment 2377 , which makes available to the public all reports required in the bill.