WASHINGTON - April 13 - Five federally funded programs that waste more than $4 billion in taxpayer dollars and harm the environment are targets for elimination by an environmental and taxpayer coalition, according to the Green Scissors 2004 report released today by Friends of the Earth, Taxpayers for Common Sense, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
"Congress has difficult choices to make, but cutting these wasteful and environmentally harmful programs should be the easiest." said U.S. PIRG environmental advocate Navin Nayak. "It's simply ridiculous that we spend money we don't have on programs we don't need," continued Nayak.
"Congress really has two choices: they can either be known as the Congress that couldn't cut, or as the ones who began to reverse the deteriorating fiscal condition of our nation," said Taxpayers for Common Sense program director Aileen Roder.
"With the current budget deficits, it is outrageous that both Congress and the administration continue to waste money on environmentally destructive activities," said Friends of the Earth economic campaign director Erich Pica. "Our elected leaders should seize the opportunity to cut the federal budget using green scissors," he concluded.
Green Scissors 2004 focuses the Green Scissors Campaign's efforts on eliminating five of the more than 60 program cuts advocated by the campaign. These programs represent $4 billion of the more than $58 billion of programs identified in previous Green Scissors reports.
The programs and policies targeted in the Green Scissors 2004 report are:
· Small Business Tax Credit for the Purchase of Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs)
A loophole in the federal tax code allows all small businesses, including doctors, lawyers, and real estate agencies, to deduct more than $100,000 of the cost of an SUV from their taxes. Initially intended to benefit farmers and construction workers, the provision makes the purchase of a luxurious $55,000 Hummer H2 completely deductible. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that this loophole will cost federal taxpayers more than $1 billion over five years, while simultaneously encouraging the purchase of gas-guzzling SUVs that contribute disproportionately to global warming pollution.
· Delaware River Deepening
This flawed Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) project to deepen the Delaware River will cost taxpayers at least $175 million, severely affect air quality, water quality and wildlife habitat, while providing questionable benefits to the region. The General Accounting Office and independent investigators have repeatedly discredited the Corps benefit-to-cost ratio, highlighting that the project would potentially cost taxpayers twice as much as it would generate in benefits.
· Market Access Program
For nearly 20 years, the Market Access Program (MAP) has subsidized the promotion and marketing of U.S. agricultural products overseas. In fiscal year 2003, the U.S. Poultry and Egg Export Council received $2.7 million and the U.S. Grains Council received $3.5 million in taxpayer subsidies. Many of the funded trade associations and their member corporations participate in such environmentally destructive practices as growing genetically engineered crops, logging in national forests, and operating factory farms that generate large amounts of pollution.
· Section 29 Tax Credit for Non-Conventional Fuels
As one of the most expensive and often abused energy tax credits in existence, the Section 29 tax credit will cost taxpayers $2.8 billion over five years. The credit has subsidized energy production from such destructive industries as coalbed methane and synfuels. Although oil and gas prices remain incredibly high, and companies are generating record profits, they continue to claim billions of dollars in credits at taxpayers' expense. The latest version of the federal energy bill would extend the credit, costing taxpayers billions more.
· Timber Road Subsidies
Every year, the federal government spends millions of dollars subsidizing the timber industry's business costs. More than 380,000 miles of roads have been built in national forests. The Forest Service has constructed so many roads that it now faces a $10 billion backlog in needed road maintenance.
The groups applauded the efforts of Reps. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), and Robert Andrews (D-N.J.), who have initiated a bipartisan Caucus to cut harmful and wasteful spending in the federal budget. The groups also called on members on both sides of the aisle to join the Green Scissors Caucus and work to protect taxpayers and the environment.
Local Green Scissors Campaign members are releasing the report in more than 12 states. These groups provide support for the Green Scissors Campaign throughout the year. For a copy of the report, visit http://www.greenscissors.org or contact Erich Pica at 202-222-0739.
Friends of the Earth is a national environmental advocacy organization with member groups in 66 countries.
Taxpayers for Common Sense is a national, nonpartisan budget watchdog group.
U.S. Public Interest Research Group is the national lobby office for the State Public Interest Research Groups. State PIRGs are non-profit, nonpartisan public interest advocacy groups.