While cutting back on many pet projects, lawmakers have included some real stinkers in federal spending bills for 2006, according to a watchdog group that announced its annual Washington pork menu on Wednesday.
- $13.5 million for an Irish group that funds the World Toilet Summit?
- $1 million for water-free urinals?
- $500,000 for a teapot museum?
Those projects, and nearly 10,000 others, account for a record $29 billion in federal pork-barrel spending for the current budget year, Citizens Against Government Waste said. Spending on local line-items rose 6.2 percent last year, the group said, but the overall number of special earmarks crammed into 11 federal appropriation bills was down 29 percent.
Pork — generally defined as local projects folded into large spending bills without a hearing — has long been a favorite target of government watchdogs. A ballooning national debt, growing war costs and huge reconstruction costs along the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast have raised pork hunting to new heights.
“In addition to the lobbying scandal, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have magnified the need for prioritizing federal spending,” the group wrote in its 16th annual Congressional Pig Book, which highlights 375 pork-barrel projects totaling $3.4 billion in spending. “If the federal government is to pay for the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast, it should do so without going further in debt.”
The group estimates the government has allocated $241 billion for pork-barrel projects since 1991.
Once again, Alaska takes the bacon as the most pork-laden state, the group said. Congress has earmarked $325 million, or about $490 per capita, for projects in the sparsely populated state, down from $985 in 2005. Hawaii, at $378 per capita, and the District of Columbia, at $182, are next on the list.
“Alaska’s drop can be attributed to Sen. Ted Stevens’ descent from the throne as Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman,” Citizens Against Government Waste said.
Stevens, a veteran Republican lawmaker who now heads the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, caused a furor last year by trying to push through $230 million in federal funding for a rural transportation project dubbed “the bridge to nowhere.” The proposed span would have led to an island populated by about 50 people.
Republicans scuttled funding for the project after it became a symbol for pork run amok.
Based on the funding Stevens won for Alaska projects for 2006, the CAGW bestowed upon him its Cold Shoulder Award, one of several “Oinkers” given to lawmakers.
Members of Stevens’ staff refused to comment on Wednesday.
Some of the other “bridge to nowhere” projects identified in the CAGW’s “Pig Book” include:
To search the group's database for pork projects in your state, visit: http://www.cagw.org/
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