Thursday, May 4

Alaska Screws over Rural Residents in Quest for Pork

Everyone is familiar with the ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ that Alaska’s Senators Don ‘King of Pork’ Young and Ted ‘Bringing home the bacon’ Stevens managed to get funding from Congress totaling $223 million to build. For those who are not aware, there are only 50 people living on the island that is the foundation for the other end of this bridge with one of the owners of property on the island is the Governor.

Congress removed the earmark from the money so that the state could do what it wanted with the funds. According to the Governor (and the Washington Post) he will use the money to build the bridge. Shame, it would be easier to give the 50 people living on the island a million or two million each, leaving $100+ million for other worthwhile causes, and there are worthwhile causes in Alaska.

Just because Alaska is rich with oil and crab money doesn’t mean that there are no people in need there. Take the plight of those who live in the rural areas of Alaska:

NPR - Residents in 5,000 homes in rural Alaska live without running water and sewage systems. Their bathrooms are often buckets that must be hauled to landfills or a sewage lagoon. For drinking water, people go to ponds to chip ice in the winter and collect rainwater in the summer. The Bush administration's budget proposes reduced funding for the state's Village Safe Water program by 75 percent. Ashley Gross of the Alaska Public Radio Network reports. (Listen to the report.)

I love this quote in the report “Many Alaskans are questioning the Bush Administration’s plan to cut Federal funding of that program by 75%.” How about questioning your Senators why they didn’t earmark a couple million for this problem. How about questioning your Governor why he is spending over $200 million in free Federal money on an unnecessary bridge to a sparsely populated island that already has ferry service instead of spending it on people in his own state who have no running water and use buckets for toilets? How about questioning why your state has no income tax. Why not allocate some of the Alaska Permanent Fund oil dividend for these projects in your state instead of asking the rest of the country to pay for what you need and want? (Isn’t it enough to not have to pay state income taxes?)

It is classic that they interviewed Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski (Daughter of Governor Frank Murkowski) in the report. She has the gall to comment “would this be acceptable anywhere else?” Try to keep in mind that Alaska Residents do not pay any state income tax. As a bonus for living up there, they also receive an annual allowance from the State. ($845.76 in 2005.)

“She (Senator Murkowski) is outraged by the President’s proposal to cut $45 million out of the Alaska village State Water Program” and that Alaska is getting a “raw deal.” - NPR

A Raw Deal. How is that for gratitude!

In the report, Senator Murkowski estimates that the unmet needs for rural Alaska totals about $600 Million. At least I know where to find a third of that amount, just cancel the bridge.

The bridges to nowhere (There is a second Alaska bridge. The bridge pork totals $452 million) are nothing compared to the Great Mississippi Pork Grab going on for the ‘Highway to nowhere.’ Senators Thad Cochran and Trent ‘Jimmy Dean’ Lott have put in an earmark for $700 million to move a CSX rail line that the Government just spent over $200 million to fix. That’s close to $1 Billion tax dollars, or almost FOUR BRIDGES TO NOWHERE.

It make absolutely no sense to spend money to rebuild a railroad and them spend more to tear it up. If there are claims that there have been plans for years to move the railroad tracks, why would they not act immediately, when there was the opportunity. There are only two reason I can think of to first rebuild the tracks and then call to tear them up;

1. To first collect some kickbacks from the reconstruction process
2. Incompetence.

There are calls coming from the Senators and the state that we are all misunderstanding the issue. Fine, but I think it is their responsibility to make the case for it, not us. There has also been claims that part of the reason to move the tracks is to make space for routing I-90 away from the shoreline for a safer escape route. So I ask, how much safer is this route along the track line when the last hurricane destroyed the tracks where they now propose to put the road?

The detractors call this out as a major case of pork to benefit the casinos. Why not use casino money to move the railroad? Look at Las Vegas. You don’t see the State of Nevada pleading for Federal Funds to bankroll the states gambling operations. Should these things be sources of revenue for the state? Where does Mississippi gambling money go to anyway? News reports put the revenue at $500,000 per day, just for the casinos that were affected, with gambling earning the State over $300 million a year. Surely these funds can be used to fund this project. Or are the funds being used for some greater good?

By the way, at least Senator Lott has commented about the drive to rid pork from Government:

"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. We in Mississippi have not asked for more than we deserve. We've been very reasonable." - Porkbusters

This is notable as it shows the effectiveness of the web. It didn't change the Senator's ways, but at least he now knows that people are watching. This reminds me of Congressman Delay's idiotic statement concerning pork:

"Yes, after 11 years of Republican majority we've pared it down pretty good." - FFI

Good job Congressman! Good job.

Update: 7 May 2006

The Heritage Foundation has this summary of the railroad pork project and even suggests that moving the rail tracks will expose the area to greater risk of damage during a future storm as some believe that the elevated trackbed held back storm surge.

Update: 8 May 2006
Instapundit has this summary of the current status of the Iraq spending bill where the railroad pork project money is stuffed into. He is calling for the President to make good on his promise to veto the stuffed spending bill and for his own good, and for the good of all Republicans (other than those in the Senate spending like drunk sailors) he should.

Funds at Risk for Rural Alaskan Services – NPR

The Permanent Fund Dividend – for the State of Alaska
Railroad to Nowhere challenged – Porkbusters
Mississippi Senators' Rail Plan Challenged – Washington Post
There is simply no fat left to cut in the federal budget - DeLay - FFI

Senator Trent Lott – US Senate
Senator Ted Stevens – US Senate
Senator Thad Cochran – US Senate
Senator Lisa Murkowski – US Senate


Stevens Vehemently Opposes Coburn Amendment to Eliminate Alaska Bridges


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