The Senate has proven once again that trimming fat from the federal budget does not include pork - as in pork-barrel projects.
Included in the $20.7 billion appropriations bill that passed on a 93-6 Senate vote a few days ago is $170 million earmarked for various pet construction projects.In their collective wisdom, the senators saw fit to trim $228 million from the president's proposed Internal Revenue Service budget while including $80.4 million for construction of a new federal courthouse in Charleston, W.Va., home of Demo Sen. Robert Byrd, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The IRS planned to use $55.5 million of the lost money to hire 1,050 new agents with the primary purpose of trying to collect the estimated $96 billion (more than half the federal deficit) in unpaid taxes owed by Americans at the end of 1989. The IRS estimated that the agency would collect at least $2 for every $1 spent on the effort.
In other words, the committee felt the country couldn't afford to finance better tax-collection efforts but could use the money for a new courthouse in the chairman's home town. The incident is a prime example of what is wrong with Congress.
To his credit, Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, tried, though unsuccessfully to persuade his fellow senators to restore the $55.5 million, noting the revenue raising potential the expenditure would have. To his discredit, Glenn joined his colleagues in the final appropriations vote.
There is one small glimmer of hope, however. The bill now goes to a conference committee with the House to resolve differences in the two appropriations bills.
But don't hold your breath. It is an election year and pork-barrel projects have a way of escaping the budget knife when it means jobs for potential voters.