Keep the news coming! Your ad here for only $30 a week.

Friday, April 01, 2005

A plot to build highways?

Thanks to the Pombo Watch website (which seems dormant, for now), I came across an interesting letter that suggests oil drilling in ANWR is part of a plan to pay for construction of new highways.

It's a letter dated Feb. 3, 2004, from House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) to Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), chairman of the Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure. In the letter, Pombo offers up ANWR oil revenues as a way to fund transportation projects in a massive transportation bill overseen by Young.

Pombo claims, somewhat haphazardly, that federal royalties and corporate taxes derived from ANWR drilling could generate some $400 billion for the treasury. And while he confesses that "it would be difficult to specifically capture the taxes generated on this new wealth" for transportation, it would nevertheless pump up the federal budget in general.

The transportation bill is H.R. 3, also known as "TEA-LU" or Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users. It is a renewal of one of the most important federal transportation bills that funds thousands of vital projects, from public transit to bike lanes and highway widenings. Essentially, it keeps America moving.

But the bill was taken over by a handful of powerful politicians and loaded with $12 billion in porkbarrel projects, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonprofit watchdog group. Many of these projects have nothing to do with keeping America moving, including horse trails, museums and interpretive centers.

In Pombo's case, it includes millions of dollars to fund two very controversial new highways in his home district.

"The transportation bill is a pork laden budget buster that needs a serious overhaul," Keith Ashdown of Taxpayers for Common Sense said in a statement. "Instead of cutting spending in a fiscally responsible manner, lawmakers are committing highway robbery on taxpayers to pay for parochial pork."

But is it also committing refuge robbery? Are these politicians counting on ANWR revenue to fund their pet projects, which they know cannot be funded otherwise because of wasteful spending elsewhere in the budget (Iraq war, tax cuts, etc.).

Young has been described as Pombo's mentor. Indeed, he helped Pombo, a relative youngster, get the Resources Committee chairmanship over a number of much more senior politicians. Is Pombo using ANWR to return a favor?

Here's a link to the letter. Warning: It's a .pdf file.

[Technorati tags: ]