A Step In The Right Direction: Appropriations Bill Roots Out Some Waste, but Doesn’t Do Enough To Protect Public Priorities and End Special Interest Handouts

Illinois PIRG

Statement of Illinois PIRG Advocate Dev Gowda on the Bipartisan Omnibus Appropriations Bill passed by the House of Representatives. 


“The bipartisan appropriations bill developed by Congressman Hal Rogers and Senator Barbara Mikulski, which will fund the government for the next year and avoid another damaging shutdown, is a step in the right direction. First, it rejects the arbitrary sequester approach to budgeting, which equates public priorities with genuine waste. Second, it includes a few sensible cuts to wasteful spending, which will save taxpayer dollars. Unfortunately, the omnibus appropriations bill also leaves billions of dollars worth of wasteful programs untouched, while cutting important investments in 21st century transportation and critical funding for food safety inspections.


A few of the spending reductions in the bill were included in the joint Illinois PIRG and National Taxpayers Union report, “Toward Common Ground.” This study, developed by two unlikely allies who disagree on most issues, details 65 specific deficit reduction recommendations for Congress. The “Common Ground” recommendations contained in the omnibus include:

  • Reducing funding for the inefficient Ground Combat Vehicle and the wasteful Navy Cruiser Modernization Program: According to the Pentagon and the CBO, these projects contain troubling problems and waste. The appropriations bill drastically cuts them down to size, saving $759 million. 
  • Reducing wasteful military construction projects: The Defense Department itself has called to cut construction projects by over $4 billion over 10 years; the budget bill trims $1.1 billion, which is a start. 
  • Reducing funding for the Economic Development Administration:  This agency has been fraught with inefficiencies for years and has been a source for many wasteful Congressional earmarks. The bill cuts $74 million from its budget, but much more could be done. 

“Although these are good starts, the bill doesn’t touch a whole host of special interest handouts, including most of 65 deficit reduction recommendations that Illinois PIRG developed with the National Taxpayers Union. It fails to cut off funding to clean up abandoned mines that have already been cleaned up, yet skimps on funding for food safety inspections. It continues to pay the international advertising bills of trade associations for profitable industries while not investing a dime in building high-speed rail, at a time when Americans are driving less and choosing transit more. 


 “There is much more low hanging fruit when it comes to wasteful spending and inefficient federal programs. The omnibus bill chips away at some waste, but leaves the budget laden with billions in wasteful expenditures, all the while making cuts to critical public priorities.”


Click here for testimony delivered by U.S. PIRG Tax and Budget Associate Jaimie Woo last week before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform at a hearing entitled “Waste in Government: What’s Being Done?”


Click here for a copy of the Illinois PIRG-NTU report, Toward Common Ground.


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Illinois PIRG is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.