State ranks low in per capita earmarks

Although California lawmakers this year set aside millions of taxpayer dollars in pet projects, the state ranked 49th in the nation for pork-barrel spending per capita, according to a new report.

As the nation flirts with recession, a total of $17.2 billion was earmarked on nationwide pork projects, a 30 percent increase from last year, according to an annual report titled “Pig Book” from the Citizens Against Government Waste. The report highlights lawmakers’ pet projects added to federal budget spending without congressional debate.

State representatives, particularly those in the Bay Area, weren’t as spendthrift as many of their Capitol colleagues, according to the report. The state — which earmarked more than $666 million, or $18.23 per capita — was well behind “top porkers” Alaska and Hawaii. Alaska lawmakers set aside $379 million, or $555.54 per capita. Hawaii earmarked $283 million, or $220.63 per capita.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., signed on to 289 projects this year totaling $294 million, more than any other California lawmaker. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., supported 100 projects for $120 million and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, supported 51 for $91.2 million.

The report attacked a $9.3 million earmark Pelosi recommended for the cleanup of a Superfund site at San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point. Citizens Against Government Waste President Tom Schatz said the environmental work is aimed at offering the 49ers a new stadium — funding he says should come from The City and team and not the federal pocketbook.

Pelosi representatives chided CAGW’s report as dubious. “Hunters Point-Bayview area has been a focus for 19 years and her priority in this project is how to rectify the severe environmental problems that exist there,” spokesman Drew Hammill said.

Feinstein said she and Pelosi secured a total of $82 million for the Hunters Point cleanup, along with $11 million to continue construction of the Central Subway Project for the San Francisco Municipal Railway.

“Without earmarks, it is unlikely that any of these priorities for the Bay Area would have been funded,” she said.

Extraterrestrials, fruit flies are pork under fire

California lawmakers this year set aside $1.6 million in federal money to scan the skies for extraterrestrials and another $200,000 to research the olive fruit fly in Paris — just a few expenses on a long list of “unbelievably wasteful” spending measures, a new report charges.

Another $4.8 million was earmarked for air conditioning at a military housing complex in Twentynine Palms, $500,000 was set to upgrade eight blocks of an upscale neighborhood near the U.S. Capitol and another $49,000 was reserved for the construction of a mule museum in the Central Valley, the report added.

“Why can’t we use this money to bring back $1,000 per child tax credit instead?” said Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, who authored the report.

The report called funding for the construction of a gigantic telescope northeast of San Francisco “an Unidentified Fiscal Object.” Lawmakers said the Allen Telescope Array project would spot threats to U.S. satellites, but the report said the telescope is specifically designed to capture aliens hanging out in deep space. Half of the $50 million project was funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and the alien-detector has already received $5.6 million in federal money, aside from the $1.6 million supported by Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto.

“When was the last time aliens attacked the Earth?” Schatz said. He said defense money is sponsoring the telescope, which is “clearly not a matter of national security by any stretch of the imagination.”

Eshoo, whose district includes portions of San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties, lambasted the CAGW report.

“Had [CAGW] done their homework on this funding issue they would have found that one of the Defense Department’s key missions is space situational awareness,” she said. Eshoo said the funding would help “find and track stealth satellites, vehicles dispatched to destroy U.S. space assets, or even identify ‘space junk’ endangering an American satellite.”

maldax@examiner.com

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