Michelle Bachman (RTP-MN), a self-appointed opponent of earmarks and an advocate of cutting government spending has introduced a bill to facilitate construction of a $623 million dollar bridge in her district. Critics say it costs two to three times more than it should. This has all the markings of an elephant earmark.
Does a proposed new Minnesota Bridge fleeces taxpayers?
Rep Bachman’s bill HR 850 would clear the way for Minnesota and Wisconsin to spend $623 million dollars to build a new bridge over the St. Croix River in Bachman’s district to connect Stillwater, MN with Wisconsin. The bill would exempt the freeway style bridge from the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, which currently prevents its construction.
This high price tag seems to be a “fleecing of America” given the fact that the proposed bridge will carry only a fraction of the traffic of the 35W bridge which was rebuilt in Minneapolis last year after its collapse at a cost of $260 million dollars which included a $26 million dollar bonus to the contractor.
Bachman’s actions speak louder than words on government spending
On Congresswoman Bachman’s website, she dedicates an entire webpage to decrying “Wasteful Spending:” Here is an excerpt:
Each year the federal government spends trillions of dollars, billions of which are wasted on duplicative,inefficient, or ineffective government-run programs. So far this year, the House has passed more than $950 billion in new government spending. Congress simply must show the American people it is serious about protecting their hard-earned tax dollars and should adhere to more responsible budgeting that millions of Minnesota’s families practice every month.
The controversy is not over the necessity of replacing the bridge; it is over the fact that Bachman is proposing an inappropriately sized mega-bridge that is fiscally irresponsible when lower cost alternatives are available. According to another Minnesota Congresswoman, Betty McCollum, a bridge could be build over the St. Croix that would solve the transportation needs and that bridge would be half the cost.
“The bridge H.R. 850 enables to be built would cost taxpayers nearly three times as much the Interstate 35W Bridge [bridge that replaced the one that collapsed in Minneapolis two years ago], but serve only a fraction of the traffic. In this time of record deficits at the federal, state and local level, elected leaders must carefully consider the value of every investment. The bridge in H.R. 850 fails every common-sense test of taxpayer value.”
HR850’s proposed bridge violates Wild and Scenic River Act and threatens the river
The reason for the Bachmann bill is that it seeks to overturn the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in order to allow the bridge to be built. This troubles Rep McCollum who told Congress “It is possible to build a new bridge that meets the requirements of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, solves the long-standing transportation problem in Stillwater, and guarantees state and federal taxpayers a responsible return on their investment.”
According to an article by Angela Schnaubelt published in Examiner May 20th, 2011, the St. Croix River is listed as one of the most endangered rivers in America – a distinction that was earned precisely because of the proposed irresponsible legislation, HR850. This is not only bad for the residents who enjoy the river for fishing and other recreation, but could also interfere with the natural flow of one of the tributaries of the Mississippi.
What is feared is relaxing local ordinances, and even modification of a Federal piece of legislation — the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 — will set a precedent that will endanger other rivers around the nation., according to the article.
One of the reasons the Mississippi floods of 2011 were so costly is that man has messed with the river channel upstream with devastating consequences downstream
Bridge controversy is bi-partisan
Minnesota’s two Democratic Senators, Amy Klobechar and AL Franken are sponsoring a bill in the Senate to do essentially what Bachmann’s bill would do. Minnesota’s elder Democratic statesman, Walter Mondale, agrees with Rep. McCollum that the Bachmann bill and the Klobechar/Franken bill are bad ideas. He believes there should not be a waiver of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act for this bridge.
Normally, if Democrats propose spending a dime on infrastructure, Bachmann and her Republican Tea Party buddies blast them for wasteful government spending. Apparently, what constitutes waste depends on who benefits.
What might have gone through Congress quietly is now likely to become a campaign issue because of the hypocrisy. Stay tuned.
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