Condemns $1.4 Billion in "Pet Projects"
September 19, 2000WASHINGTON, DC-U.S. Senator- John McCain (R-AZ) today spoke out against the
Treasury and General Government Appropriations Bill in his continued fight to save taxpayer dollars and to rail against the out of control spending on so-called 'pet projects':
"Mr. President, I want to thank the managers of this bill for their hard work in putting forth this legislation which provides federal funding for numerous vital programs in the Treasury
Department and the General Government. However, I am sad to say, once again, I find myself in
the unpleasant position of speaking before my colleagues about unacceptable levels of parochial
projects in another appropriations Conference Report.
"The amount of pork in this bill is a tremendous burden which is patently unfair to the
millions of hard-working American taxpayers, who do not possess the resources to get a "pet
project" placed in their backyard.
"The list of projects which received priority billing is quite long and the dollar amounts are staggering. Nevertheless, I will highlight a few of the egregious violations.
"The conference report contains numerous provisions for millions of dollars to construct new courthouses in specific locations such as Los Angeles, CA, Richmond, VA, and Seattle, WA. Again, why are these particular sites so deserving of funding, that they receive specific earmarks to fund their construction? Unfortunately, this spending frenzy is not limited to courthouses. Somebody in either the House of Representatives or the Senate has concluded that the SSA National Computer Center in Woodlawn, Maryland ($4.3 million), and the Richard Bolling Federal Building in Kansas City, Missouri ($26 million) are so unique that they should receive specific earmarks.
"Furthermore, this conference report irresponsibly expands the definition of what constitutes emergency spending to get around the spending caps. For example, this report designates $9 million in funding for repairs to the underground garage in the Cannon House Office Building as emergency spending. This is not what the American taxpayer would envision as a true emergency that should be paid for with their hard-earned dollars.
"This report also spends nearly $7 million more for salaries and expenses for the Treasury
Department than was requested by either the House or the Senate. When will the wasteful spending cease?
"But the list of spending excesses goes on. This bill provides a staggering $14.8 million for communications infrastructure (including radios and related equipment) associated with law
enforcement responsibilities for the Salt Lake Winter Olympics. This item is but one example of
the fiscal abuse surrounding the staging of the Olympic Games.
"This past year, I requested the General Accounting Office to conduct an audit into Federal financial support for U.S. cities hosting the Olympics. Specifically, I asked the GAO to answer two questions: 1) the amount of federal funding and support provided to the 1984 and 1996 Summer Olympics, and planned for the 2002 Winter Olympics, and the types of projects and activities that were funded and supported, and; 2) the federal policies, legislative authorizations, and agency controls in place for providing the federal funds and support to the Olympic Games. What the GAO discovered is that, "at least 24 federal agencies reported providing or planning to provide a combined total of almost $2 billion, in 1999 dollars, for Olympic-related projects and activities for the 1984 and 1996 Summer Olympic Games and the 2002 Winter Olympic Games."
"My friends, this number is staggering, but what is more shocking is the way in which federal funds flowing to Olympic host cities has accelerated. The GAO found that the American taxpayer provided about $75 million in funding for the 1984 Los Angeles Games, by 1996 the bill to taxpayers had escalated to $609 million, and for the upcoming 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, that bill to American taxpayers is estimated to be $1.3 billion dollars. This figure is breathtaking. The American taxpayer is being shaken down to the tune of nearly a billion-and-a-half dollars for Salt Lake City to host the Winter Olympics.
"Not surprisingly, the GAO found that there was no effective mechanism in place for
tracking federal funding and support to host cities. The GAO stated that "in some cases it was
difficult to determine the amount of federal funding and support because federal agencies generally did not track or report their funding and support for the Olympic Games." Congress, in some cases, authorized $690 million of the estimated $2 billion, with some $1.3 billion being approved by federal agencies. However egregious it might be for Congress to approve $690 million in taxpayers funds - most of which was done through objectionable legislative pork barreling - it is astounding that federal bureaucrats, with absolutely no accountability, have
ponied up $1.3 billion as a regular course of business. Notably, the Vice President, as part of his "re-inventing government" program chaired a White House task force designed to coordinate federal involvement in the Olympics. However, to no one's surprise, this was more an exercise in re-inventing a lack of accountability than of re-inventing government. The GAO found "that federal agencies generally did not track or report
their funding and support for the Olympic Games."
"The Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, named after my good friend and
colleague from Alaska, sets out the process by which the United States Olympic Committee
operates, and how the USOC goes about selecting a U.S. bid city. Embodied in this Act is a
uniquely American tenet establishing that the United States Olympic movement, including the bid, and host city process, is an entirely independent, private sector entity. However, as this report points out, the American taxpayer has now become, by far, the largest single underwriter of the costs of hosting the Olympics. Mind you, this is not about private, voluntary giving to the Olympic movement. Nor is it about corporate sponsorships. This is about a cocktail of fiscal irresponsibility, made of Congressional pork barreling, and unaccountable federal bureaucrats.
"As I outlined earlier, taxpayer ftnding of the Olympics has increased dramatically in recent years, as has the purpose of the funding. In the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, $75 million in federal support was provided. Most notable about this figure, aside from how low it is relative to Atlanta and Salt Lake, is what the money was used for. Of the $75 million, $68 million (or 91 percent) was used to help provide safety and security services during the planned staging of the games. Only $7 million was for non-security-related services. Providing safety and security support is a proper role for the federal government. No one would dispute that the federal government should provide whatever support necessary to ensure that the Games are safe for everyone. However, the American taxpayer should not be burdened with building up the basic infrastructure necessary to a city to be able to pull off hosting the Olympic Games. Los Angeles had that capacity, they had the roads, the transit systems, the event venues necessary to hosting the Olympics, and where they didn't, they had the ability to raise the funding from the private sector.
"Clearly, by the time we got to Atlanta, such was not the case. Of the $609 million in
taxpayer funding that went into the Atlanta games, $96 million (or 16 percent) went to safety and
security related services, while $256 million (42 percent) was for construction of roads and
highways, $114 million (19 percent) went to mass transit projects, $55 million (9 percent) for other Olympic-related capital improvements, and the balance of $89 million going for various other activities such as spectator transportation and building and venue enhancement.
"The GAO identified the building of the Ocoee white water Slalom venue as a particularly offensive example of pork barreling out of control. $22 million dollars was provided to build this venue. This white water rafting event was not originally slated as an Olympic event. That's before state and local officials got involved. After they convinced Atlanta officials to include the event, they lobbied the Forest Service, and the Tennessee Valley Authority (among others) for the funding. In a series of classic government decisions, the Forest service chose a portion of the Ocoee River not normally used for rafting, and proceeded to make a series of irreversible changes to the river including reducing the rivers width by half, modifying the river's flow, and making the river "cable ready" by implanting cables and connections for the media's use during the games. To top it off, the TVA then released the required amount of water during the Olympic trials, and games. This cost the TVA $2 million in lost power-generating revenue.
"Other classic examples include $33 1,000 to purchase flowers, shrubs and grass for venues and parks around Atlanta, $3.5 million to do things like installing of solar electrical systems at the Olympic swimming pool, $313,000 to build a bike path and $1.6 million for DOT to post signs around the city of Atlanta.
"Most offensive to me is that 1,000 of our men and women in uniform were used as bus
drivers for athletes, coaches, and officials at a cost of $978,450.
"As astounding as the Atlanta numbers are, they absolutely pale in comparison to Salt Lake City. Almost $1.3 billion of federal funding and support is planned or has already been provided to the City of Salt Lake. $645 million (51 percent) is for construction of roads and highways, $353 million (28 percent) is for mass transit projects, approximately $107 million for miscellaneous other activities like building temporary parking lots and bus rentals, and $161 million on safety and security.
"As of April 2000, the federal government planned to spend some $77 million to provide
spectator transportation and venue enhancements for the Salt Lake games. This includes $47 million in Congressionally approved taxpayer funding for transportation systems. Among other things, Salt Lake officials plan to ask the federal government for $91 million to pay for things like transporting borrowed buses to and from Salt Lake, additional bus drivers, bus maintenance, and construction and operation of park and ride lots.
"However, as outlined, most of the money taken from taxpayers to foot the bill for the Salt Lake games is going to develop, build, and complete major highway and transit improvement projects - "especially those critical to the success of the Olympic Games." This last phrase is vital to understanding the fleece game being played by cities like Salt Lake.
"It works this way; a city decides they want to host an Olympics to generate tourism and put their home town on the map. In order to successfully manage an Olympics, community leaders know they will have to meet certain infrastructure demands. They develop their plans in
coordination with the state government, then team up with their Congressmen and Senators to tap
into the motherload of federal pork, the Transportation Trust Fund. Eventually, the project funding is authorized for some point in the distant future, but not appropriated. When the city lands the Olympic bid, the pay-out is accelerated in order to meet the time-line for the Games. All this, under the rationale that the city and state would eventually receive the money anyway. Well, this doesn't pass the laugh test. It is a shell game of the greatest magnitude, and the victims are the taxpayers of America.
"The GAO makes several recommendations for Congressional consideration including a
potential federal role in the selection of a bid city, a tracking system for funds appropriated, and
more direct oversight. Among other things, the GAO also recommends a larger role for OMB in
exercising oversight regarding agency activities. However, I believe there are two fundamental
reforms that should take place. First, is budget reform. Appropriations for Olympic activities should occur through the regular budget process, subject to the sunshine of public scrutiny, and debate within Congress. Second, the USOC should not consider the bids of cities that do not have in place the basic capacity to host the Olympic games. All of the cities discussed in this report are wonderful places that all Americans should be proud of. However, what is clear from this report is that only one, Los Angeles, had the established capability of hosting an event the size of the Olympic Games. $1.3 billion to Salt Lake City, this is preposterous, and it must stop."
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