News: CJ Exclusives

Federal Pork Spending Grows in N.C.

State spent 33 percent more over last year's $101 million in pork

Federal spending for pork-barrel projects in North Carolina increased by almost one-third in the last year, but the state remains near the bottom for per capita pork, according to a Washington, D.C.-based government watchdog group.

Citizens Against Government Waste released its 2005 Congressional Pig Book last week, in which it annually identifies and calculates the number of wasteful spending projects budgeted by the federal government. The nonprofit organization reported that North Carolina had $133.7 million in such projects, almost a 33 percent rise over last year’s $101 million. Per capita pork increased by approximately the same rate: this year the government spent $15.65 per North Carolina resident, compared to last year’s $11.70 per person.

But that level of spending still left the Tar Heel state ranked only 47th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Only Michigan, Georgia, California and Texas had lower rates of per capita expenditures on pork.

Nationwide, CAGW said this year Congress spent more on pork barrel projects than ever. This year expenditures grew to $27.3 billion, which was a 19 percent increase over last year’s $22.9 billion.

“Appropriators stuffed 13,997 projects into the 13 appropriations bills, an increase of 31 percent over last year’s total of 10,656,” a CAGW press release said. “In the last two years, the total number of projects has increased by 49.5 percent.”

CAGW listed 217 projects in North Carolina, including $1 million for replacement buses at the Triangle Transit Authority; $2 million for a “regional center for economic, community and professional development” at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke; $3 million to find the “beneficial uses of dredged material” in Morehead City Harbor; $2 million for Pisgah Forest environmental education; $3 million for the Hemphill Knob Visitor Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway; $1 million for the All Kinds of Minds Schools Attuned Teacher Training at UNC-Chapel Hill; and $200,000 for the National Whitewater Center in Charlotte.

“Despite a record $427 billion deficit predicted for fiscal 2005,” CAGW President Tom Schatz said, “members of Congress are engaging in the worst form of blatant self-interest — larding the budget with pork for home districts and states.”

CAGW also announced its annual “Oinkers Awards,” in which it recognizes “dogged perseverance in the mad pursuit of pork.” Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, a Republican, was singled out for the “Hogzilla Award” for winning $646 million in pork for his state. Last year he received the CAGW’s “Whole Hog Award” for getting $524 million in pork for his state, and he also won the “Taxpayers Get Scrooged Award” for his efforts to get $2.2 million for recreational improvements in North Pole, Alaska, population, 1,570. Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia got the “Flipping the Byrd at the Taxpayer Award” for his $399 million in pork.

To be considered pork, an appropriation must meet one of the following criteria:

• 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; or
• Serves only a local or special interest.

CAGW singled out a $100,000 grant to the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras as one of many especially noteworthy pork projects. The museum was created to display artifacts recovered from the shipwreck of the U.S.S. Monitor.

“The museum’s ship-like exterior and about half of the interior were constructed before the pool of funds dried up,” CAGW said in its press release. “More than $2 million is still needed to complete construction of the 19,000 square foot museum, and (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) refuses to relinquish the highly coveted Monitor artifacts until construction is finished.

“According to the museum’s website, ‘All donors of $10,000 and above will be commemorated with a plaque prominently displayed in the entrance of the new facility.’ We wonder what plaque they will have for taxpayers, since they’ve ‘donated’ more than $1 million to this watery grave since 1999.”

Paul Chesser is associate editor of Carolina Journal. Contact him at [email protected]