Thursday, November 17, 2005

"Two 'Bridges to Nowhere' Tumble Down in Congress"

Great headline isn't it? It's from the NYT and makes it seem like Congress defunded the infamous Bridges to Nowhere scheme in Alaska.

The story's first two paragraphs seem to confirm that result:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 - Congressional Republicans decided Wednesday to take a legislative wrecking ball to two Alaskan bridge projects that had demolished the party's reputation for fiscal austerity.

Straining to show new dedication to lower spending, House and Senate negotiators took the rare step of eliminating a requirement that $442 million be spent to build the two bridges, spans that became cemented in the national consciousness as "bridges to nowhere" because of the remote territory and small populations involved.

Um, but then we get to the third paragraph:

The change will not save the federal government any money. Instead, the $442 million will be turned over to the state with no strings attached, allowing lawmakers and the governor there to parcel it out for transportation projects as they see fit, including the bridges should they so choose.

What? But wait, it gets worse:

The bridges - a mile-long, 200-foot-high bridge connecting Ketchikan to a sparsely populated island and regional airport and a second one linking Anchorage to a port nearly two miles across an inlet - have been aggressively defended by Alaskan lawmakers, who said the projects would promote growth. They complained that their state had been maligned and were able to defeat a move in the Senate to direct the bridge money to hurricane relief.

Senator Ted Stevens, a powerful Republican from Alaska who had threatened to resign had the Senate shifted the money to the Gulf Coast, said Wednesday that he was resigned to the elimination of the requirement that the money go to the bridges.

So, what do we have here? Well, the official Bridges to Nowhere "earmark" was eliminated, but Alaska still gets all the money and can do with it what they wish--including spend it on the infamous bridges if they so desire.

And the money could still go to the Bridges, rather than to the Gulf Coast, which, you know, maybe could actually use the money.

So if you see this headline or something like it today, be sure to read the fine print.

No comments: