The Pork Express

Jon Coupal
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Note: This post was co-authored with Tom Schatz, President of Citizens Against Government Waste

For six years in a row, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and
the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation (HJTF) have published the
California Piglet Book to spotlight waste, fraud and abuse of
taxpayers’ dollars. Modeled after the Pig Book, an annual analysis
of Federal spending conducted by CAGW, we have found the state
Piglet an excellent method of embarrassing California officials into
better performance and a higher respect for the public’s money.

In a target rich environment, this year we have chosen to focus our
attention on the misuse of public transportation dollars.

An examination of public transportation projects commonly reveals
misspent taxpayer funds. This is because high profile projects at
the local, state, and federal government levels are a favorite of
politicians who see in them numerous career building opportunities,
which become an end in themselves. Elected officials enjoy the
photos and speeches, while control of transportation dollars can be
turned into massive clout, which in turn generates campaign
contributions and votes. The goal of bringing home the
transportation pork is often at odds with proper planning and
management of high dollar projects.

The 2008 California Piglet Book includes a special section on high
speed rail with excerpts from The California High Speed Rail
Proposal: A Due Diligence Report, which challenges the many
assumptions advanced by the proponents of this massive project.
California’s high-speed rail system, on which politicians and
special interests want to spend — with apologies to Carl Sagan —
billions and billions of taxpayer dollars. All this at time when the
state has already run up a record $17 billion budget deficit, and is
over two months late in passing a spending plan to reconcile that
problem. The full study, authored by transportation experts Wendell
Cox and Joseph Vranich, was jointly sponsored by the Reason
Foundation, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation and Citizens Against
Government Waste and can be found at www.hjta.org, www.cagw.org or
www.reason.com.

We also have sought to show examples of other misspent
transportation-related dollars, including:

– California recorded $98 million in fuel costs for its 50,000
state-owned vehicles in 2007, but that’s only 60 percent of total
fuel costs; the state cannot account for the other 40 percent;

– The California Air Resources Board plans to spend $36 million in
2009 to expand a zero-emission bus program even though the Santa
Clara Valley Transportation Authority has found that its three
zero-emission buses cost more than $51 per mile to fuel and
maintain, versus $1.61 per mile for a diesel bus; and,

– The California Highway Patrol spent $1 million to buy 51 vans, and
then used 46 of them sparingly over two years, averaging only nine
miles driven per van.

Make no mistake — CAGW and HJTA are not automatically opposed to
all public transportation. The issue is the tremendous subsidies
that most plans require from all taxpayers and the official
mismanagement and corruption that result in massive cost overruns.
Most egregious are proposals like the California high-speed rail
plan where voters are being sold "a pig in a poke" — no pun
intended. Promoters are trying to lure taxpayers into buying their
$54 billion project, but like the customer of old who got the bag
home from the market only to find that, instead of the pig they
thought they purchased, they had been fooled into buying a cat,
taxpayers will be unpleasantly surprised when they discover that the
new train system could actually cost them nearly $30 billion more.

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