Appropriators Want to Hog Transportation Spending Documents


Call it the Opaqueness in Government Act. A provision slipped into H.R. 3074 of the Transportation/Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill would bar the Department of Transportation from "using any funds from this Act to provide a congressional budget spending any delay public access to the budget justifications–which provide specific descriptions of and reasons to spend taxpayer money on specific projects–for several months after they’re released. Members of the Appropriations Committee, by contrast, would get the documents right away. In other words, congressional appropriators are saying, "Now we see it, now you don’t." Well, it’s not as if average citizens across the country have much of an interest in finding out if adequate funds will be available to maintain the roads and bridges, airports and so on in their own districts… Some more background on the provision is available here.


Meanwhile, the Office of Management and Budget put out a press release (that I can’t seem to find on their site yet) saying that President Bush would veto the bill. Among the reasons cited:

This bill includes nearly all earmarks in report language, and does not cut the cost and number of earmarks by at least half. The bill also contains more than 2,000 earmarks for, among other things, museums, zoos, gardens, gymnasiums, and golf courses, and diverts funds from such priority purposes as housing, low-income families, bridge repairs, and highways. Congressional earmarks divert Federal taxpayer funds to localities without the benefit of a merit-based process, resulting in fewer resources for national priorities or unwarranted spending above fiscally-responsible levels.

Though it’s not tops on their list of reasons to oppose the bill, Christin T. Baker, the Associate Director for Communications at OMB, says that they’re "very concerned this bill takes steps to roll back transparency." Last February, the administration made the budget justifications available to the public soon after it released the President’s budget–you can view Transportation’s 2008 documents here–in prior years, members of the appropriations committee enjoyed a monopoly on that information. Apparently, they prefer the public not to know what they were up to, and want to go back to the old system.