This month, Congress will discuss the details of what the Feds will pay for local roads, rapid transit, bridges, tunnels, and other pork barrel projects involving the infrastructure. If they decide to leave these local projects to local governments to be paid for by the land speculators and developers, the Federal budget will be easily balanced. But don't bet that the Feds will extend their new theory of local control over local projects to local payment for local projects.
Clinton and Gore want $175 billion for this pork over 5 years. But Ed Shuster (Rep. Pa) Chairman of the all-powerful House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, prefers that $200 billion be contributed. Shuster is the notorious sponsor of the bill which provided Federal payment for the Ed Shuster Highway in Ed's home district, which primarily benefitted only one big campaign contributor.
On September 30, the Inermodal Transportation Efficiency Act expires, requiring further legislation to assist those landowners with property adjacent to the highway freeway exits, transit terminals, etc., who are seeking Federal aid.
The original ISTEA enacted in 1991 cost us $156.1 billion. Self-styled budget cutter Phil Gramm applauded this legislation in a nation-wide distributed leaflet seeking campaign contributions for George Bush because he signed this bill which Gramm asserted "jump-started" the economy.
Personally, we agree with the opinion of David Stockman, Reagan's first Budget Manager, who wrote in his book, The Triumph of Politics, that "The Federal government had no business repairing or building local city streets, county roads, bridges or mass transit systems. They served the local populace and benefit only local economies; the local taxpayer should therefor pay for them. Money that came from Washington had an invitation to indulge in waste and excess written all over it. It was the pork barrel at its grandest and most wasteful."
Stockman noted that when he laid out his plan to scrap these highway and transit subsidies, Drew Lewis, secretary of Transportation, "turned completely white," because this would be "disrupting the flow of $14 billion per year of Federal gravy." But, he concluded that "Attacking abuses in programs for the poor required that we cut the pork out of programs for the non-poor, too."
The new Shuster five year plan will cost us $40 billion a year, not the mere $14 billion Stockman complained of.
The budget should be balanced by dropping this fiscal monstrosity. Make local governments pay for their own pork barrel projects through special benefit assessment or by advalorem taxes so that the land speculators and developers pay for their own benefits, their own rights of way. Otherwise, this highway robbery will continue without a struggle.
-- Stanley M. Sapiro
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