Continuing her fight against earmarks, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill sent a letter yesterday to Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood calling for an end to funding pork-barrel projects in transportation legislation. Over the last 20 years, earmarking has dramatically increased. In light of the President's commitment to reforming the earmark process, McCaskill called on LaHood to help put an end to spending tax dollars based on the priorities of individual members through a process that often has too little accountability.
"With our current budgetary situation and the escalating federal debt we can no longer allow the process of earmarking to continue. Determining how to prioritize transportation projects cannot be and should not be decided by individual members of Congress. Our state and local governments, working with federal agencies, are better equipped to know what the priorities should be for addressing our infrastructure needs," McCaskill wrote.
When Congress passed the last transportation reauthorization bill in 2006, 11 percent of the bill, totaling $22 billion, was earmarked, as compared to a total of only 1 percent of earmarked funding throughout the 1980s. Too often earmarks direct funding to low-priority, not yet mature transportation projects. As a result meritorious and high-priority projects lose out on funding opportunities.
McCaskill has fought against the lack of transparency in the earmarking process since arriving in Washington. She believes that competitive merit and need-based federal grants and low-interest government loans are a better alternative to earmarks, bringing federal assistance to Missouri in an honest and fiscally responsible manner.
McCaskill is one of only six senators who do not seek earmarks.