Libertarian Party: Cut government waste to fix dangerous bridges

For Immediate Release Friday, May 24, 2013

In the wake of the dramatic collapse of the Interstate 5 bridge in Mount Vernon, Wash., on May 23, federal and state politicians will make their usual claims that ever-higher government spending is needed — funded by more taxpayer dollars and more debt — to fix the country’s roads in need of repair.

Collapsed Skagit River Bridge in Washington on May 23, 2013
Photo by roswellgirl ( CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 )
Collapsed Skagit River Bridge
in Washington on May 23, 2013

But it’s a fraud. More money is not the answer. Much lower total government spending is.

The first step is to open the government’s books to learn how those federal and state government politicians are spending the trillions of dollars they already collect and spend every year.

‘Don’t be surprised to learn that, in most states, less than 2 percent of state government spending goes toward building, fixing, or maintaining roadways,’ said Libertarian National Committee Executive Director Carla Howell.

For example, in Massachusetts, state politicians spent more than $53.3 billion in fiscal year 2012. Only $1.7 billion went to the state Department of Transportation. And only $63.9 million of the Massachusetts DOT’s budget was spent on road ‘construction and maintenance’ and ‘materials, supplies, services’ — a minuscule 0.12 percent (one eighth of 1 percent) of total Massachusetts state government spending.

A 2008 study by pollster Tony Fabrizio showed that the average Massachusetts voter believes that 41 cents on every dollar the state government spends is wasted. If voters are correct, there’s more than $21 billion in government waste ripe for the cutting, a tiny fraction of which is needed for roads.

‘Road maintenance, construction, and repair should be funded as locally as possible,’ Howell said. ‘We certainly don’t need the federal government butting in and adding to the waste. That will only drive up costs more and tempt politicians to sign on to Big Government boondoggles like the Big Dig.’

Politicians sold voters on the Big Dig, a road project in downtown Boston, in the late 1980s, with a price tag of $2.3 billion. The taxpayers’ bill now stands at more than $24 billion.

Most major road construction today is paid for with bonds, or funded with federal TARP money, rather than scheduled to fall within state or local highway operating budgets. Continual debt funding of roads drives up costs, grows government debt, and creates excuses for higher government spending.

‘Every dangerous road, tunnel, and bridge in America should be fixed or replaced immediately — but without blackmailing taxpayers for more money,’ Howell said. ‘Instead, politicians and their appointees should be held criminally negligent for allowing any public thoroughfare to remain unsafe. At the same time, we must stop debt-funding roads and force politicians to fund road maintenance and repairs from planned budgets. As always, we must dramatically downsize federal, state, and local government budgets to remove waste.’