Orphaned Earmarks

By Libby Casey

Senator Mark Begich has paired up with an unlikely ally:  conservative Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn.  The Republican is totally opposed to earmarks and other spending projects that Alaska thrives on, and has personally blocked legislation because it included specially allocated funding bound for Alaska.

But the two have found common cause in trying to kill what are called “orphaned earmarks,” earmarks that were given out but never actually spent.

The duo says rescinding orphaned earmarks sitting unused could save more than 500 million dollars.

They have introduced a bill to take back earmarks that are 90 percent unused after nine years… giving agencies 12 more months to use the money or it goes back to the treasury.

Senator Begich said on the Senate floor today that while he still defends the use of earmarks, if the money isn’t being used, it shouldn’t sit out of reach.

If you have a piece of legislation, an earmark, 90% not utilized for 10 years or more, there’s no reason you should have that money in some bank account, in some agency somewhere hidden away.  It should come back, go to the deficit.

The newspaper “U-S-A Today” did an analysis last month that showed Alaska has lost more than $187-million in the past two decades because of earmarked money that hasn’t been spent.  That’s because when funds are earmarks for specific highway projects, it often lowers the amount states receive from the feds.

Senator Coburn says their “orphaned earmark bill” is one small bipartisan step toward reducing the national debt.

Just to show you how silly this is, in Atlanta, there’s still money for the 1996 Olympics.  14 years ago, $2.7-million sitting in a bank account, can’t spend it, Olympics already occurred.  But we’ve still got that money out there.  That’s the kind of silly stuff that happens when the federal government reaches into areas it shouldn’t be reaching into.

Another Senator, Democrat Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, has his own bill to deal with orphaned earmarks… it specifically goes after highway earmarks, and has a tighter 3 year time limit.  It would return the money to the states, not the treasury like Begich & Coburn’s.



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