House Members Request $20.8 Billion in Earmarks

House Members Request $20.8 Billion in Earmarks

May 14, 2021  | Jeff Davis

Now that Congress has brought back earmarking, House members have filed requests for 5,267 projects totaling $20.75 billion.

House Appropriations. The committee has posted its summary spreadsheet of all earmark applications filed so far by the original deadline. (Some new applications may be considered after the deadline, because the President’s budget won’t be submitted until May 27, and some earmark requests can’t be made until you see what the President requested for that project In total, members asked for 2,887 projects totaling $5.9 billion.

The Transportation-HUD Subcommittee was by far the most popular for earmark requests, with over one-third of the number of requests and almost half of the dollar amount.

The difference between the mean average request and the median request shows how a few large or small outliers can throw off a mean average. For example, the six largest requests in the Transportation-HUD subcommittee, all six of which were filed by Texas Republicans, were for over $50 million each (ranging from $70 million to $136 million). Simply drop those six and the mean average for the subcommittee drops from $2.5 million to $2.0 million, while the median project stays at $1.0 million. Then there were ten more requests that were above $15 million but below $60 million each. Drop those ten as well and the mean average request drops to $1.7 million while the median request stays constant at $1.0 million.

By contrast, there were 159 projects requesting exactly $1,000,000 each, and 457 projects with requests below $1 million. One of those listed on the spreadsheet is a math error – a request for a regional park from Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) is listed as fifteen bucks on the spreadsheet (a Jackson minus a Lincoln) but is listed at $1.5 million on Lowenthal’s website. But a few coding errors are to be expected.

House Transportation and Infrastructure. Members have requested 2,380 projects at a total of $14.855 billion (full list here). The mean average project request was $6.242 million and the median project request was an even $3.0 million, but as with the Appropriations requests, a few super-pricey outliers skewed the average.

The largest project request from T&I was – no kidding here – $945.6 million, from Garret Graves (R-LA) for a new connector road from Louisiana Route 1 to Louisiana Route 30 near Baton Rouge. In total, there were six requests for projects over $100 million and then seven more for projects over $50 million but less than $100 million. If you drop those sixteen from the list, the total amount requested drops from $14.855 billion to $11.405 billion and the average project size drops from $6.2 million to $4.8 million.

Under the funding structure established in 2005 and maintained by the two reauthorization laws since then, funding for new subways, light rail, and other “fixed guideway” lines isn’t provided by the reauthorization bill, so it can’t be earmarked in the reauthorization bill. (Projects have to be selected by the Secretary and then funded in the annual appropriations bills.) As a result, the list of the most expensive earmark requests from the T&I Committee is heavily on the highway side. The most expensive non-highway project appears to be $60 million for a railroad junction as part of the CREATE program in Chicago (from Chuy Garcia (D-IL)). Then Ayanna Presley (D-MA) asks for $30 million for a pedestrian and bicycle bridge over the Mystic River.

The most modest request from T&I: $23,408 for the Royal Lakes Road Rehabilitation Project in Royal Lakes, Illinois, courtesy of Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL).

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