U.S. Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Jim DeMint (R-SC) today introduced legislation that would protect taxpayer money by returning to the U.S. Treasury unused or reclaimed stimulus funds for broadband projects that have been identified as wasteful, fraudulent or insufficient. Companion legislation sponsored by Rep. Charles Bass (NH-02) passed the House of Representatives unanimously today.
"In light of the serious concerns raised by the federal loan guarantee to Solyndra, we must protect against the waste and misallocation of taxpayer dollars. While developing our nation's broadband network is important for economic growth, this legislation will help ensure that federal funds are not directed to broadband programs that are fraudulent, duplicative, or underperforming," said Senator Ayotte, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee.
The President's 2009 stimulus bill appropriated $7.2 billion to be distributed in grants for broadband infrastructure projects through the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture, the majority of which has yet to be paid out. However, according to testimony from Inspectors General of both agencies, as well as the Government Accountability Office, a high probability exists for waste, fraud, and mismanagement given the large amount of funding allocated and the speed by which it was distributed. The stimulus bill does not specify whether or when the agencies must recall funds for troubled or duplicative projects. The Ayotte-DeMint legislation would resolve that ambiguity by requiring the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture to terminate and recall stimulus funds for broadband projects that have been identified as wasteful, fraudulent, or insufficient.
"We must do everything we can to stop more waste and abuse in the failed stimulus, and I'm proud to work with Senator Ayotte on this commonsense legislation. The House has already passed this important taxpayer protection and it is time for the Senate to do its part," said Senator DeMint.