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Fish of Cut Bait

And the Winner is: Alaska!
By Bob Ciminel


November 23, 2005

A month or so ago, I wrote a letter-to-the-editor taking a tongue-in-cheek poke at Alaska Airlines' "Flying Salmon" Boeing 737. I was rightly admonished for not having my facts straight, so I really can't disagree with those who challenged my position.

With that in mind, and with the recent cancellation of the "Bridge to Nowhere" project, which consumed the letters-to-the-editor page for several months, I embarked on a little research to see just how many Federal projects are funded for Alaska in a typical year.

My source was Citizens Against Government Waste and their "2005 Congressional Pig Book Summary," which describes the amounts and targets for major Federal spending on a state-by-state basis. My hat is off to Senator Ted Stevens, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Senator Stevens was able to find more than $600 million for Alaska's citizens, beating both the District of Columbia and Hawaii by a wide margin.

There were only several areas where Alaska did not lead the nation; these were Commerce, Justice, State, and the Judiciary, where Democratic Senator Fritz Hollings was able to squeeze almost $69 million from taxpayers for his home state of South Carolina. However, Alaska did manage to come in second with $61 million, with almost $19 million going to the Alaska Seals and Stellar Sea Lions.

Alaska also lost out to Hawaii in Defense, with the Aloha State receiving $404 million, as opposed to Alaska's mere $176 million. Senator Stevens was able to put $5.5 million into the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, whose goal is to heat up the ionosphere to improve military communications, although, as one Alaskan scientist stated in 1997, ". . . we would have to flatten the entire state . . . and put up millions of antennas . . . ."

Tennessee whipped up on Alaska in the Energy category, which really surprised me considering how much of Alaska's economy centers on oil production. Old Hickory's home state raked in $148 million compared to Alaska's paltry $33 million, the bulk of which went to the Army Corps of Engineers to maintain Alaska's waterways. Admittedly, these waterways are vital to the state, and most Americans would harbor no objections to funding those lifelines. However, the $43 million that went to Sealaska for their project to convert Tongass' old growth timber into ethanol seems counterintuitive for a state that prides itself on preserving its forests.

Enough talk about Alaska's losses; let's see where the state hit the mark.

Alaska took first place in the Agriculture category at $37 million for the following projects:

$26,000,000 for Alaska villages through the Rural Community Advancement Program
$1,790,000 for berry research
$1,108,000 for alternative salmon products
$358,000 for seed research
$284,000 for ethnobotany research
$167,000 for salmon quality standards
$160,000 for seafood waste research in Fairbanks.

The state also took top prize for the Interior category, garnering $91 million for these projects:

$11,000,000 for sales preparation, maintenance, and pre-commercial thinning of the Tongass National Forest
$9,500,000 for Alaska conveyance
$7,420,000 to replace the Eielson Visitor Center at Denali National Park
$3,242,000 for the Base Volcano Monitoring Program in Shemya
$900,000 for the Marine Mineral Technology Center
$790,000 for the Bering Sea Fisherman's Association
$739,000 to build a historical resource support center to protect the museum collection at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park
$392,000 for Alaska legal services
$150,000 for the Alaska Whaling Commission
$98,000 for the Alaska Sea Otter Commission

Receiving about $985 per capita in Federal pork, Alaska surpassed its closest competitors by over 30%. Senator Stevens' scoreboard looks like this:

Agriculture: $ 37,402,000
Commerce: $ 60,977,000
Defense: $ 175,775,000
Energy: $ 33,173,000
Interior: $ 90,975,000
Labor: $ 66,335,000
Transportation: $ 134,425,000
Veterans Affairs: $ 20,440,000

For a grand total of $ 619,502,000

You know, just to be fair, I also searched the 2005 Pig Book Summary for my home state of Georgia. Evidently, we didn't make the cut. The criteria for inclusion in the Pig Book were fairly stringent. A project had to meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Requested by only one chamber of Congress
  • Not specifically authorized
  • Not competitively awarded
  • Not requested by the President
  • Greatly exceeds the President's budget request or the previous year's funding
  • Not the subject of Congressional hearings
  • Serves only a local or special interest

So I take back my original remark that spending a half-million dollars to paint a salmon on an airplane was an inappropriate expense. I really was way off the mark.



Bob Ciminel's articles may include satire and parody, and mix fact with fiction.
He assumes informed readers will be able to tell the difference.

Bob lives in Roswell, Georgia, and works for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations.  He is also a conductor on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway.


Bob Ciminel ©2001 - 2005
All Rights Reserved

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