Budget slashers leave 'pork' alone

March 06, 1995|By Newsday

WASHINGTON -- House Republicans, who have proposed slashing programs for children, veterans, the poor and elderly, left virtually untouched nearly $3 billion in their own pet pork-barrel projects, according to internal documents of the House Appropriations Committee.

And although committee Democrats unsuccessfully fought to restore the cuts in low-income programs, many of them joined Republicans in sharing the largess from the apparently untouchable pork barrel.

Rep. Robert Livingston of Louisiana, the Republican chairman of the committee and leader of the budget-cutting forces, was one of the biggest beneficiaries, sparing more than $38 million in projects that he and others in the Louisiana delegation brought home for their state.

According to the committee documents obtained by Newsday, virtually all of the Louisiana projects and the hundreds of others spared were neither sought nor requested by the agencies involved nor by the Clinton administration for the 1995 budget.

Acting under their "Contract with America," House Republicans have sought to cut the federal deficit by rolling back congressional appropriations that were to be spent in 1995.

Committee Republicans last Thursday cut about $17 billion in federal spending, $10 billion of which came from education, housing, veterans assistance and nutrition programs, summer jobs and public broadcasting.

In the committee debate, Mr. Livingston angrily accused Democrats of playing "the compassion game" with money from taxpayers.

These were among the programs for Louisiana that were spared from the Republican ax:

* $15 million from the Defense Department to pay for a new building for "bioenvironmental research" at Tulane University, Mr. Livingston's alma mater.

* $4 million for the Audubon Institute in New Orleans, for a research facility, including a greenhouse and animal pens, from the budget of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The committee document says "although labeled a research facility . . . it is basically a private zoo."

* $1.8 million for construction at the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park, also from the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Mr. Livingston's office did not respond to calls for comment.

Officials of several agencies said the projects were "congressional add-ons," inserted into the congressional appropriations bills in the House or Senate by lawmakers.

Mike Stamler, a spokesman for the Small Business Administration, said of the list of such add-ons: "These are projects that could be useful for small businesses. But they are not integral to our mission, and if we were asked if we wanted them to be funded, we would have said we can do without them."

Democrats also benefited, although not as much as Republicans. The committee let stand $1.8 billion in 345 highway demonstration projects, 75 of which are in Democratic districts.

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