The recent highway bill, H.R. 3, also known as the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2005, includes more than $24 billion in spending that is allowed to be “earmarked” by members for pet projects in their districts. House sponsor of the Bill, Rep. Don Young of Alaska, appears to have used his legislative clout to bring home the bacon for his district (which is admittedly huge in land area) – a total of $941 million – which is the fifth largest payout of all states in the aggregate. On a per capita basis, this amounts to $1501 for every resident, the highest for all states, which averaged only $86 per capita.
By comparison, Iowa ranked 16th in per capita benefits for these projects at $142, with Nebraska trailing close behind at 22nd at $115. In terms of total benefits, however, Nebraska lagged well behind at number 42 on the list of states, raking in only $196 million. Iowa fared a little better, ranked at 22nd here with over $446 million in earmarked benefits.
Complete rankings and lists of projects can be found at the Taxpayers for Common Sense website, which can be reached here: http://www.taxpayer.net/Transportation/safetealu/states.htm
Politicians love highway projects, and I think they hope to be remembered fondly by their constituents every time they are on the road. (Unfortunately, this may not work so well for those of us who drive on rural gravel roads, with cars coated with dust, who pay lots of taxes and have to commute in conditions that are similar, though perhaps slightly improved, from those encountered by our grandparents.)
Rankings like these show the relative clout of one’s representatives. They also may show the harm of not playing along, as Senator John McCain may be experiencing. I noted that he was one of four senators to oppose this bill. This may be a coincidence (just like every time I hit a golf ball into the water, it sinks – dang!), but I noted that the appropriations for Arizona were cut by $4 million before final passage, and that Arizona (a very large and populous state) got a paltry $137 million – surpassing only WY and NH. I seriously doubt that Arizona roads are that much better than the rest so that they don’t need these projects.
This spending package will be good for employment and construction related firms, who now will have more resources channeled their way. Investors will want to think about firms that might fit this profile. Locally, Valmont Industries comes to mind as one who supplies infrastructure equipment that could benefit from this bill.