The high-octane Mississippi Senate delegation is using a mammoth bill funding hurricane relief and the war in Iraq to have taxpayers foot the $700 million bill for a rail line along Mississippi's Gulf Coast.
But there's a catch. The track in question, owned by CSX Transportation and damaged by Hurricane Katrina, has already been repaired at a cost of $300 million.
Now, Mississippi GOP Sens. Thad Cochran and Trent Lott want to tear up the just-rebuilt track -- which divides virtually every city and town along the state's coast -- and use the land to build a much-needed highway along the congested coastline. ...
The ambitious project has critics already comparing it to "pork barrel" projects like the $223 million "bridge to nowhere" connecting Alaska's Gravina Island -- population 50 -- to the mainland. That project drew the ire of the American public and was rescinded in December.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said, "It is ludicrous for the Senate to spend $700 million to destroy and relocate a rail line that is in perfect working order, particularly when it recently underwent a ... repair." ...
Lott vigorously defended the rail line plan.
"I'll just say this about the so-called porkbusters. I'm getting damn tired of hearing from them. They have been nothing but trouble ever since Katrina," he said. "We in Mississippi have not asked for more than we deserve. We've been very reasonable."
And from CNN yesterday: 'Pig Book' targets government 'pork'.
A watchdog group Wednesday accused Congress of wasting taxpayer dollars to please the people back home, despite the soaring deficit and mounting bills for hurricane damage and the war in Iraq.
Citizens Against Government Waste identified 375 projects -- costing $3.4 billion -- in its "2006 Congressional Pig Book" it says the nation could have done without in fiscal 2006, which ends October 1.
The 53 pages of pork barrel projects "symbolize the most egregious and blatant examples of pork," the report says.
Among the projects the group identified:
* $13.5 million for the International Fund for Ireland, which helped finance the World Toilet Summit
* $6.4 million for wood utilization research in 11 states
* $1 million for the Waterfree Urinal Conservation Initiative in Michigan
* $500,000 for the Sparta Teapot Museum in Sparta, North Carolina ...
To qualify for the "Pig Book," a project must meet at least one of these standards: requested by only one chamber of Congress; not specifically authorized; not competitively awarded; not requested by the president; greatly exceeds the president's budget request or the previous year's funding; not the subject of congressional hearings; serves only a local or special interest.
UPDATE -- April 10: Tom Rizzo did some fact-checking. The infamous "bridge to nowhere" was not merely to connect "Alaska's Gravina Island -- population 50 -- to the mainland." The island is mostly an airport. As Tom notes, "It's still pork," but there was more to the story.
Posted by Forkum at April 6, 2006 04:43 PM