As 2013 began, congress made a deal to prevent the country from going over the fiscal cliff, amid media frenzy and public scrutiny. The finer points of this agreement, however, were not discussed in the public eye. Nestled among the 150-page legislation was money for an assortment of things from Hollywood to algae. These items are known as “earmarks” or “pork.”
The deal was described as the best option, by some. In a press statement, Sen. Jim Inhofe stated his opinion on the deal in general.
“One of my greatest concerns about the fiscal cliff has been the devastating cuts that would happen to our military due to defense sequestration. This deal avoids those cuts for two months to allow for a better solution,” said Inhofe. “ While I would like to have sequestration addressed, I am hopeful the deal’s two-month delay will help us better prioritize deep spending cuts while protecting our military and national security.”
Sen. Tom Coburn also released a statement.
“While this bill is far from perfect, it does prevent massive tax increases while making tax cuts permanent for 99 percent of Americans. Congress and the president, however, have a lot of work to do to address our long-term spending problems.”
Now that the smoke has cleared, the finer points of the deal are being given a second look. The legislative deal includes:
•$430 million for Hollywood to encourage TV and film production in the United States. Producers can expense up to $15 million of costs for projects.
•$331 million for railroads, allowing short-line and regional operators to claim a tax credit up to 50 percent of the cost to maintain tracks they own or lease.
•$222 million for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands for rum produced on the islands and imported to the mainland.
•$70 million for NASCAR by extending a seven-year cost recovery period for certain motorsports race track facilities.
•$59 million for algae growers to encourage the production of cellulose biofuel at up to $1.01 per gallon.
•$4 million for electric motorcycle makers by expanding an existing green-energy tax credit for buyers of plug-in vehicles to include electric motorbikes.
Coburn discussed the extras that find their way into legislative deals.
“The process was behind closed doors. When Senate doesn’t function there is no input from any other Senators,” said Coburn. “The process is hidden from American sight, it would not have passed if they had been more transparent.”
“I offered amendments to remove the extras, and I was defeated. Why should we supplement Hollywood? Why should we fund NASCAR, either it is a sport that can fund itself or its not.”
Senator Coburn explains how these frivolous items found their way in.
“These lobbyists are helping themselves to the detriment of the people. The reason this stuff got in, is because the president wanted it in,” he said. “These things are favors that need to be removed.”
He consented that this deal was the best option despite the earmark amounts.
“The best deal would be to make the tax rate permanent for 98 percent of America. To do this we had to swallow all the junk and deal with the earmarks.”