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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

AP IMPACT: Politics can drive stimulus priorities

Earlier the month public officials in northern New Hampshire spoke out publicly against spending $14 Million to upgrade the US border crossing in Pittsburg. Coos County Commissioner Bing Judd put it this way:
"There are roads and bridges up here that desperately need to be fixed. Among them is a bridge over the Connecticut River that is so bad off that fire trucks can no longer cross it. That bridge could be fixed for a lot less than $14 million, but instead Obama's "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act" is going to spend that much on a new facility at one of the least-used border crossings we have." (more)
At the time people couldn't understand why the government was throwing money at a problem that didn't exist. Now Yahoo News has an article that may explain what's really going on.
By EILEEN SULLIVAN and MATT APUZZO, Associated Press Writers

WASHINGTON – A sleepy Montana checkpoint along the Canadian border that sees about three travelers a day will get $15 million under President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan. A government priority list ranked the project as marginal, but two powerful Democratic senators persuaded the administration to make it happen.

Despite Obama's promises that the stimulus plan would be transparent and free of politics, the government is handing out $720 million for border upgrades under a process that is both secretive and susceptible to political influence. This allowed low-priority projects such as the checkpoint in Whitetail, Mont., to skip ahead of more pressing concerns, according to documents revealed to The Associated Press.

It wasn't supposed to be that way. In 2004, Congress ordered Homeland Security to create a list, updated annually, of the most important repairs at checkpoints nationwide. But the Obama administration continued a Bush administration practice of considering other, more subjective factors when deciding which projects get money. (more)

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