More than a month past deadline, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board finally responded to Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) June 24 request for an estimate of the total cost of stimulus road signs — but failed to provide a comprehensive estimate.
Issa, ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, asked for the cost assessment by Aug. 1, but RAT board chairman Earl Devaney didn’t deliver the response until Sept. 9. Enclosed with it were letters from six different federal agencies. They included loose estimates of just how much the agencies have spent on stimulus signs — but the estimates don’t satisfy Issa’s request for the total cost of the signs.
“The cost estimates provided by federal agencies fall short of the information [Issa] requested and raise serious questions about the ability of the [RAT board] to obtain the information necessary to bring transparency and accountability to the expenditure of stimulus funds,” write Issa, and Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) in their response to Devaney.
The estimates might fall short, but they still hint at the extent of sign spending. The Department of Defense, for example, spent $6.6 billion on projects that included signs. The Department of Transportation spent more than $8 million on signs alone and the Department of Housing and Urban Development “hypothetically” spent $314,181, according to the letter from the agency. These figures might be chump change for the federal government, but they’re still significant, especially because many Americans consider the signs a waste. More than 50,000 people have voted through Republican Whip Eric Cantor’s YouCut project to stop the stimulus signs.
Even more importantly, the signs are just the tiniest symbol of the wider waste associated with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Among countless other examples, ARRA funds have flowed to students to use at Fortune Bay Resort Casino in Minnesota. They’ve supported the completion of various projects at the National Zoo and proposed enhancements to the electric fish displays of the Shedd Aquarium at Northwestern University. They’ve even funded a physical education program that includes golf for students in Oregon’s Forest Grove school district.
Issa has asked the RAT board to explain why stimulus funds have flowed to these controversial projects as well. In a Sept. 2 letter, he asked for an explanation by Sept. 17. No word yet on when Devaney will get back to him.
Correction: This article originally stated that the Department of Defense spent $6.6 billion on stimulus signs. This was wrong. In reality, the Department of Defense spent $6.6 billion on projects that were subject to internal DOD signage policy. – Tina
Tina Korbe is a reporter in the Center for Media and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation.