Porkís dirty secret

Old pork doesn’t die, nor does it fade away. That’s why the Transportation Department’s inspector general is looking into the accounts of the Federal Highway Administration to see if it can uncover extra money to help reconstruct the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast.

Is there really any more need to look for pork? Finding it is easy (e.g, e.g.). Prying it away from Congress is what’s tough. And sometimes members don’t even do anything with the pork the worked so hard to get:

[A] dirty little secret of earmarks — pejoratively called “pork” by opponents of the practice — is that, sometimes, the money never gets spent, or the projects never get done. The money, however, ends up sitting around, trapped in federal coffers because “earmarked funds must be used only on the specifically designated project,” Assistant Inspector General Kurt Hyde explained in a November 30 memorandum to the FHWA. Earmarked funds cannot be spent on other projects without an OK from Congress. Hyde said that data from FHWA’s financial management system shows that “significant” amounts of earmarked but unspent funds are in limbo, some designated as long ago as 1983. And that’s just in the five Gulf Coast states — Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas — that are the target of the IG’s initial review.

Can’t we at least adopt some kind of “use it or lose it” provision where members of Congress give up their right to the dough if they don’t use it after a certain amount of time? Who knows what dollar amount “significant” amounts of unused pork translates to, but whatever it is it seems like that’s the first place to go for Katrina relief funds. Article here.