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Sen. Joni Ernst Introduces Bill To Expose ‘Billion-Dollar Boondoggles’ Like California High-Speed Rail

The Billion Dollar Boondoggle Act requires a list of every federally funded project that is $1 billion or more over budget or five years or more behind schedule.


Sen. Joni Ernst introduced a bill on Tuesday that would require the costs and timelines of massive taxpayer-funded projects to be submitted to Congress for scrutiny. The “Billion Dollar Boondoggle Act” requires the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to submit an annual report listing every project that is $1 billion or more over budget or five years or more behind schedule.

With a deficit of $897 billion projected for 2019, and trillion-dollar-plus deficits projected beginning in 2022, accounting for taxpayers’ money is a worthy endeavor. Ernst hopes that by subjecting these excessive “boondoggles” to review, federal money pits might be avoided, and the mismanagement, incompetency, and corruption that often plagues large projects can be weeded out. Projects like the California high-speed “bullet” train connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles fit the bill for needed oversight. The California train is now 13 years behind schedule and $44 billion over its original estimated cost.

Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, said “California’s high-speed rail fantasy quickly became a train to nowhere at taxpayer expense.  This failed boondoggle should be taken as a giant red stop sign for any politician who supports the ‘Green New Deal’ and its equally farcical promise of ending air travel by forcing taxpayers to pay for a California-style rail system across the entire nation.”

Not every public project that exceeds its budget or timeline is necessarily a boondoggle, but should nevertheless be required to disclose where taxpayer money is going. Other ongoing wasteful projects that would be considered a boondoggle according to Ernst’s bill include:

  • NASA’s Space Launch System, the behemoth rocket the space agency is building to take humans to the Moon and Mars, has been repeatedly grounded by delays and is now projected to cost almost $9 billion. It will also most likely fail to reach its target launch date of June 2020.
  • A radioactive waste clean-up project that has cost over $100 billion since 1989. In 2018, the Energy Department said it will spend $200 million more in the years ahead to finish the groundwater cleanup of nearly 8 square miles in Washington state.
  • The 2020 Census is projected to be the most expensive census ever conducted, costing $15.6 billion in federal spending. That’s $107 per household.

In a statement on her bill, Ernst said Iowans elected to her to make Washington “squeal.”

“The Billion Dollar Boondoggle Act will require the disclosure of the cost and timeline of these federal projects, bringing overdue accountability and transparency to the process, which will allow us to identify problems before they become a bottomless pit of taxpayer dollars,” she said in the statement.