Taxpayer Money Flying Out the Door | Citizens Against Government Waste

Taxpayer Money Flying Out the Door

The WasteWatcher

Even if many Americans don’t think that the stimulus package is working, there is still a desire to ensure that the money is being spent wisely rather than being thrown down a rat hole.  But, the news that is trickling out from the states does not look good.

Having given up on the government-sponsored website recovery.gov, taxpayers and Citizens Against Government Waste have been relying on non-governmental sources to provide insight into how the money is being spent.

On October 7, 2009, Subsidyscope, an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts, released a report on stimulus funding for the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Airport Improvement Program.  According to the October 7, press release by Pew, “The FAA this year has directed about $272 million in stimulus funds -- or roughly 25% of the $1.1 billion provided to the agency for airport work -- to projects that scored poorly on the agency's national priority rating system, which the FAA uses to grade potential projects. The FAA typically steers grants to projects scoring above 41 on a scale from 1 to 100. For stimulus grants, the FAA raised the threshold to 62. Among the factors it uses to assign a rating are the size of the airport as well as the type of project and its impacts on system capacity.”

According to the FAA, the National Priority Ratings system (NPR) is “a numerical model that is one of several tools FAA uses to prioritize airport development projects.  The NPR is the first evaluation factor and serves to categorize airport development in accordance with agency goals and objectives. The model yields the highest percentage of projects funded under the Airport Improvement Program (AIP).  The model generates values between 1 and 100, with a higher number indicating higher priority.” 

As Subsidyscope reported, the FAA’s attempt to increase the threshold to 62 from 41 was useless.

For example, according to an October 7, 2009 article in The Examiner, “The lowest ranked of all stimulus grants will be $1 million for baggage handling at the Rockford, Illinois International Airport, which primarily serves cargo planes, and $1.85 million to expand the passenger terminal at the Pocatello, Idaho Regional Airport. Those two projects both received priority ratings of 31 points.”

Trying to justify the funding, The Wall Street Journal reported on October 7, 2009 that “Bob O'Brien, executive director of Chicago Rockford International Airport, said it is ‘difficult to know’ how many jobs will be created by the $1 million grant his airport is getting, but added that he has seen ‘50 different faces’ of people working on the project.”

Even though the federal government has been notorious in underfunding the auditing of programs, taxpayers had hoped that the government wouldn’t be measuring the success of its stimulus package by the “I Spy” method. 

  -- David E. Williams

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