U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is making nearly a half billion in unspent earmarks immediately available for projects that will create jobs and help improve transportation. LaHood announced Friday, Aug. 17, that $473 million is being turned back to all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
According to a statement from the White House, President Obama has vowed to veto any bill that comes to his desk with earmarks and would support legislation to permanently ban earmarks. But $473 million in highway earmarks from FY2003-2006 appropriations acts remain unspent years later. Those acts contain provisions that authorize the Secretary of Transportation to make the unused funds available for eligible surface transportation projects.
Effective Friday, Aug. 17, state departments of transportation will have the ability to use their unspent earmarked highway funds, some of which are nearly 10 years old, on any eligible highway, transit, passenger rail, or port project.
Looking at the list of available funds by state, Wyoming has the least, with zero funds. Alabama has the largest amount of funds available with more than $51 million. California has $43 million. Florida has $11.3 million.
All states must identify the projects they plan to use the funds for by Oct. 1, and must obligate them by Dec. 31, 2012.