Unspent Earmarks Cost States $7.5 Billion in Highway Money

Mistakes -- seemingly impossible to correct -- in 3,700 Congressional earmarks since 1991 leave almost 1 in 3 federal highway dollars unspent

A new report by USA Today uncovers how botched and orphan "earmarks" -- specific figures designated by Congress for specific projects -- have actually cost states about $7.5 billion in highway money since 1991. In "Earmarks to Nowhere: States Losing Billions," Cezary Podkul with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University and USA Today reporter Gregory Korte found at least 3,600 earmarks in which not a single dollar has gone to its intended purpose.

In fact, USA Today reports, almost 1 in 3 highway dollars -- about $13 billion -- earmarked since 1991 remains unspent, according to the authors' analysis of state data. Many of the orphan earmarks also count against a state's share of federal highway funds and have taken about $7.5 billion away from state transportation departments.

The five states leading in orphaned earmarks are stuck with nearly $2 billion in unspent, and potentially inaccessible, federal money.  

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