CAGW Names Miss. Sens. Thad Cochran and Trent Lott Porkers of the Month | Citizens Against Government Waste

CAGW Names Miss. Sens. Thad Cochran and Trent Lott Porkers of the Month

Press Release

For Immediate ReleaseContact: Tom Finnigan
May 24, 2006202-467-5309

 

Washington, D.C. – Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) today named Mississippi Senators Thad Cochran (R) and Trent Lott (R) Porkers of the Month for adding $700 million for the “railroad to nowhere” to the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2006 (H.R. 4929).  The Senate’s version of the bill for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and hurricane aid in the Gulf Coast costs $109 billion.  President Bush requested $92.2 billion and the House passed a $91.9 billion version in March.

The “railroad to nowhere” is one of dozens of earmarks tacked onto the Senate bill, including $3.9 billion for agricultural subsidies, $500 million for a corporate welfare bailout of Northrop Grumman, and $6 million for two Hawaii sugar plantations.  It comes on the heels of the controversy over the $223 million “bridge to nowhere” for Alaska in the 2005 highway authorization bill. 

The railroad controversy arose after Hurricane Katrina destroyed a portion of the CSX rail line in Mississippi.  CSX spent $300 million to fix the line and a company spokesperson said, “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.”  The $700 million would be spent to divert the tracks a few miles to the north, making way for U.S. 90 to be rebuilt along the rail bed.  Sens. Cochran and Lott say the switch is necessary for safety reasons and to protect the track from future hurricanes.  However, the Washington Post reported that “much of the rail line along the Gulf Coast would remain in hurricane danger, and the proposed rerouting would affect only a small part.”  The Post noted that “Mississippi’s rail-accident rate from 2001 to 2005 reached a 30-year low.”

The real reason behind this move appears to be economic.  The stretch of land along the railroad is prime real estate for tourism development.  As reported in the Post, the highway would be turned into a “beach boulevard” running through cities such as Biloxi.  The Governor’s Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal in Mississippi said the plan would encourage tourists to “spend more time strolling among the casinos and taking in the views.”

The “railroad to nowhere” is yet another reason for earmark and budget reform in Congress.  Members of Congress attach pet projects to emergency supplemental bills to elude the scrutiny of the normal budget process.  The federal government plays a legitimate role in rebuilding essential infrastructure in areas hit by natural disasters.  But relocating a newly-rebuilt rail line in order to help land developers is an abuse of the taxpayers’ trust. 

For fattening the deficit, classifying an unnecessary project as “emergency” spending, and failing to learn the lessons of the infamous “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska, Sens. Cochran and Lott are Co-Porkers of the Month for May 2006.      

Citizens Against Government Waste is the nation’s largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government.  Porker of the Month is a dubious honor given to lawmakers, government officials, and political candidates who have shown a blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers.

 

 

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