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GOP Senate candidate wants to cut $111 million in transportation funds for his own state

Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC) is proposing to cut billions from the surface transportation bill.

By Josh Israel - June 29, 2021
Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC)

Republican North Carolina congressman and Senate candidate Ted Budd is pushing to cut $5.66 billion from a House transportation bill — and if he succeeds, it will mean about $111 million less for the very people he is seeking to represent.

The House of Representatives is considering the INVEST in America Act this week, a five-year, $547 billion reauthorization bill for surface transportation spending. The bill includes a few billion dollars’ worth of funding for specific transportation projects requested by Democratic and Republican members, through a controversial process known as “earmarking.”

Budd, a fierce opponent of earmarking, announced Monday that he will try to amend the legislation to remove all of the more than 1,400 earmarked projects included in the bill.

“Taxpayers across the country are getting their first look at what Washington is like in the new earmark era. It’s not a pretty sight,” he said in a statement. “This transportation spending bill includes 1,474 examples of the Washington Swamp saying they know best when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars. If an earmarked project is truly worthy of taxpayer funding, then it should be proposed individually on the House floor or as a competitive grant.”

He added, “Every taxpayer dollar is sacred and should be treated that way. If this Congress really believed that, then we should remove this pork barrel spending.”

The earmarked projects reflect requests made by 214 House Democrats and 105 House Republicans. While Budd asked for no projects, several of his North Carolina colleagues, from both parties, did.

According to the Raleigh News & Observer, North Carolina Reps. Alma Adams (D), G.K. Butterfield (D), Madison Cawthorn (R), Kathy Manning (D), David Price (D), Deborah Ross (D), and David Rouzer (R) requested and received funding for 29 projects in the state, totaling $110,946,200.

These include a Raleigh paratransit facility; sidewalk projects in Marion, Morrisville, and Winston-Salem; bridge repair and replacement in Greenville; a pedestrian bridge in Rocky Mount; and improved street lights in Charlotte.

The text of the bill specifically designates that the funding would go to those projects, if enacted. Were Budd’s amendment to be adopted, that money would be removed from the legislation entirely.

Budd, a gun store owner and third-term representative, announced in April that he would seek the 2022 GOP nomination for retiring Republican Richard Burr’s open Senate seat.

On June 5, he received an endorsement from former President Donald Trump. Trump, who was defeated in 2020 after one term and two impeachments, said Budd was “very special” before mocking Budd’s fellow Republican Senate hopeful, former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, for having lost re-election in 2016 after one term.

Budd’s campaign website, meanwhile, claims, “Ted’s record is clear: he is dedicated to fighting for North Carolina families.”

On the transportation and infrastructure issues page of his official House site, Budd writes, “Supporting our critical infrastructure is a key priority for me in Washington, DC. I will always make sure that the citizens of NC-13 are fully supported at the federal level when it comes to providing resources to our local communities.”

Budd’s office did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

Earmarks have long been a controversial approach to federal appropriations. Under the Constitution, Congress must determine how much money is spent from the U.S. Treasury and on what. For many years, its members specified some of those funds to go to specific projects and contractors — usually in their own districts and states — instead of leaving it up to the executive branch to decide.

Backers of that earmarking system say it makes it easier for Congress to make deals and gives elected officials more of a say in where the money goes. Budd and other critics say it leads to wasteful spending and corruption.

In 2011, the then-House Republican majority instituted a moratorium on earmarks. The GOP’s national platform still brags “Our Republican majority ended the practice of earmarks, which often diverted transportation spending to politically favored projects.”

But after the new Democratic majority said this year that it would bring earmarking back, the House Republican Conference secretly voted in March to let members resume requesting earmarks.

While Budd has previously pushed to permanently prohibit earmarking, his amendment would go even further.

Rather than removing the requirement that the INVEST in America Act funds go to the specific projects deemed priorities by his colleagues — which would allow the administration to allocate funds as it sees fit — it would take that money out of the bill entirely, meaning billions less for transportation overall.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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