Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., has introduced H.R. 4715, the Orphan Earmarks Act, to rescind and remove idle earmarks for Department of Transportation projects, some of which were approved more than 20 years ago.
An April 2014 Congressional Research Service report, commissioned by Senator Tom Coburn, R-Okla., indicated multiple projects have remained dormant and unused. Coburn and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., have introduced similar transportation earmark legislation in the Senate.
Like the Senate bill, Lankford’s proposal would void earmarked funds in U.S. DOT accounts with 90% or more of the original dollar amount left unobligated after ten fiscal years. The bill also requires DOT to submit a report each year detailing which projects were funded through earmarked dollars and which funds remain available for funding at the end of the fiscal year. Additionally, it provides flexibility to DOT to ensure projects slated to begin in the immediate future can still take place, according to Lankford.
“Approximately $120 million of American taxpayer money sits in the Department of Transportation coffers after being appropriated years ago for a pet project that was never completed,” said Lankford. ”Instead of sustaining communities and supporting the taxpayers who contributed the money, $120 million is abandoned on a federal balance sheet.”
The legislation comes as Congress is working on renewing funding for the nation’s highway building and repair program before it runs out later this year as well as searching for new ways to pay for it.
A copy of CRS’s report is on Lankford’s website.