The following statement is from Ms. Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, on taxpayer-focused amendments regarding the H.R. 5515, the National Defense Authorization bill for Fiscal Year 2019.
Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) has reviewed the manager’s amendment for the America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 and is opposed to several provisions that appear more about serving parochial interests than protecting federal taxpayers investment. TCS urges these provisions be stripped or improved to benefit the taxpayer. TCS will continue to review the legislation as it moves forward and make further recommendations.
- Section 1001 creates a new byzantine system for allocating funding to the districts for projects of regional and local significance. If federal tax dollars are to be invested, projects must have national benefits. This muddled provision, which appears to provide a construction and operations and maintenance (COM) slush fund for District Engineers, runs counter to robust Congressional oversight of a national water infrastructure program.
- Coupled with Section 1003 – which directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the existing benefit-cost analysis procedure with an eye toward existing prohibitions on including local and regional economic benefit – this legislation seems intent on tilting the scale away from requiring that federal tax dollars only go to projects that have net national economic benefits. Too often, local and regional economic benefits in one area cause local and regional losses elsewhere. Federal infrastructure investments must create national economic benefits, not simply benefit one region at the expense of another. Furthermore, this plan seems to lock in current spending levels for districts for the next several years without taking into account changing needs, such as project completion.
- Section 1041 will likely cost taxpayers dearly. This section bizarrely forbids budget cost analysis review of projects that have initiated even the slightest bit of construction. Corps projects – time and again – have experienced dramatic cost increases. Considering Corps projects are authorized with a razor thin margin of estimated benefits exceeding costs, it only makes sense to periodically review dated or projects and those with dramatic cost growth. Taxpayers should not be forced to throw good money after bad if a project’s economics no longer work. Any worthy project would be able to withstand a reanalysis, especially considering that once construction has begun future costs would be reduced while benefits remain relatively constant.
- Section 2109 extends the automatic deauthorization window for projects authorized by WRRDA 2014 from seven to ten years. Furthermore, projects authorized by WRDA 2007 – more than a decade ago – are still protected from automatic deauthorization provisions. Section 2110 improbably calls for cancellation of $7.5 billion worth of authorized feasibility studies. Considering that previously directed deauthorization of construction projects did not meet targeted funding levels it is unlikely this one will either. Section 2203 deals with the wasteful and previously heavily earmarked Environmental Infrastructure accounts, including adding a new authorization for Charlotte County, Florida.
Taxpayers for Common Sense appreciates the extension of the Independent Peer Review program (Section 1026) and encourages Congress to ensure that both the reviews are occurring when appropriate, and that the Corps address the peer review recommendations. TCS also agrees with the review of the planning and authorization system created by the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (Section 1019).
Taxpayers for Common Sense will continue to review the legislation and make recommendations to improve the final product to benefit taxpayers. For more information contact me or Steve Ellis at 202-546-8500 or steve[at]taxpayer.net.
President, Taxpayers for Common Sense