Massachusetts Legislature Earmarks the New Transportation Bill

Post date: Aug 14, 2012 2:33:22 AM

I was happy to see Massachusetts enact a new $1.5 Billion transportation bill (see my earlier comments here) but I was amazed to see the extent to which the funding was sliced up by legislative earmarks.

By my count (I could have missed some!) there are some 212 earmarks in the highway portion of the bill alone. Many of these are small, but 86 of them (again my rough count) amount to $1 million or more and 6 of them amount to $10 million or more.

Just reading through the project list, most of them appear to be reasonably meritorious, but any list this big and disorderly probably has some clinkers in it. (There are also some “earmarks” in the list that have no money attached. I guess some folks got there after the money was all divvied up.)

I have no philosophical objection to earmarks, and sometimes they make sense both as a policymaking tool and as a way to fund transportation projects that otherwise may not be easily fundable due to their size, lack of fit with existing categories, and so forth. But, really, the scale of earmarking in the Massachusetts bill is a bad way to make policy and is certainly no way to prioritize a capital program. After so much progress has been made in transportation reform in Massachusetts over the past few years, it’s disappointing to see the details in this bill. If you want to see for yourself, look here.