Vermont Ranks 9th in Federal Pork Barreling

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(Host) Vermont is among the top ten recipients of congressional pork barrel money according to a new report by a Washington-based group. Citizens Against Government Waste says the state ranks ninth in per capita federal spending on overly expensive or unnecessary projects.

The group defines pork barrel as any project that hasn’t been requested by the President and serves only local interests. But as VPR’s Steve Zind reports, the pork is in the eye of the beholder.

(Zind) A $4 million federal appropriation to repair the Missisquoi Bridge is near the top of a list of supposed pork barrel projects in Vermont. The list is contained in the 2002 Congressional Pig Book, published by Citizens Against Government Waste. The group takes Congress to task for diverting money to projects it says states and municipalities should pay for.

From Washington, the Missisquoi bridge may look like a high priced road to nowhere, but Catherine Dimitruk says the decaying bridge is an important economic link between Canada and the Northeast. Dimitruk is director of the Northwest Regional Planning Commission:

(Dimitruk) "We really feel that it’s not your traditional pork project, because given that this bridge is so important to such a crucial route, that it serves not just Vermont."

(Zind) Other Vermont projects the group calls pork barrel include money for improvements to the Bennington Airport, an appropriation for the Vermont Historical Society’s new home in Barre and funds for the police departments in Colchester and South Burlington:

(Schatz) "The problem is we don’t know the merits, they have not been debated, they have not been set up against similar programs around the country."

(Zind) Tom Schatz is President of Citizens Against Government Waste. Schatz says the top nine states receiving pork barrel money have one thing in common: they’re represented on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Schatz says committee members simply funnel money to their own states. Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy sits on the committee. Leahy spokesperson David Carle says it helps to be on the Committee, but everyone in Congress has a say in the expenditures:

(Carle) "Members of Congress are the closest in touch with their constituents, what their state’s needs are."

(Zind) Carle says Citizens Against Government Waste is involved in an effort to prevent Congress from altering the President’s budget.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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