"Educate and inform the whole mass of the people...They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty." ~Thomas Jefferson

Stop Digging Charlie!

Last week, Congressman Charlie Dent [R-PA15] proudly posted a photo via his Twitter account (@DentPressShop) showing him ceremoniously breaking ground on the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor Trail Expansion Project in Allentown.

This PR photo op comes on the heels of Dent's announcement of his sponsorship of H.R. 4099, the National Heritage Area Act of 2012, with Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY21), with whom Dent co-chairs the Congressional National Heritage Area Caucus.  The two Congressman crow that this is a "bipartisan bill to reform and modernize the nation’s National Heritage Areas (NHAs)" and was "drafted in cooperation with the Alliance for National Heritage Areas (ANHA) and with input from the National Park Service (NPS)."  The press release goes on to say, "The National Heritage Area Program is one of the Department of the Interior’s most cost-effective initiatives, relying on a public-private partnership in which every federal [taxpayers'] dollar is matched with an average of $5.50 in other public and private funding. Heritage areas have a proven record of fostering [government] job creation and advancing economic, cultural, historic, environmental, and community development. In addition to creating jobs, NHAs generate valuable revenue for local governments and sustain communities through revitalization and heritage tourism."[emphasis added]  The full text of the bill can be found here.

Currently, there are 29 co-sponsors of the bill including the following nine Congressmen from Pennsylvania:  Mark Critz [D-PA12], Michael Doyle [D-PA14], Tim Holden [D-PA17], Lou Barletta [R-PA11], Michael Fitzpatrick [R-PA8], Jim Gerlach [R-PA6], Thomas Marino [R-PA10], Patrick Meehan [R-PA7], and Todd Platts [R-PA19].

According to their website, The Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor is "a joint effort of private groups and interested citizens, county and municipal governments, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government to conserve cultural and natural resources in the five-county region of Pennsylvania that traverses the historic Delaware and Lehigh Canals. Since the Delaware & Lehigh's designation by Congress in 1988, it has been our mission to restore historic places, conserve green space for public use and preserve and interpret our heritage to enhance life for generations to come."

While these kind of things are nice warm fuzzies, how much are projects like these costing taxpayers, especially in these tough economic times and when the nation if facing over $15 trillion in debt?

Section 12 of the bill outlines the amount of funding required:

 SEC. 12. Funding.

(a) Authorization of appropriations.—

(1) There are authorized to be appropriated to carry out the activities under section 9 not more than $700,000 for any fiscal year

for each National Heritage Area to remain available until expended.

(2) In addition to amounts authorized in paragraph (1), there are authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary—

(A) not more than $300,000 for any fiscal year, to conduct feasibility studies by the National Park Service in accordance with the provisions of section 5, with not more than $100,000 allocated in the fiscal year for any one feasibility study for a proposed National Heritage Area; and

(B) not more than $750,000 for any fiscal year, to conduct management plans by the National Park Service in accordance with the provisions of section 6, with not more than $250,000 allocated in the fiscal year for any one management plan for a proposed National Heritage Area.

(3) Funding provided under paragraph (2) shall be in the form of grants approved by the National Park Service and provided to the local coordinating entity conducting the feasibility study or management plan.

(b) Matching funds.—As a condition of providing financial assistance under this section to a local coordinating entity, the Secretary shall require the entity to provide matching funds—

(1) equal to the amount of the financial assistance provided for designated National Heritage Areas for any Fiscal Year;

(2) of 25 percent of the total grant amount received for feasibility study; and

(3) of 50 percent of the total grant amount received for a management plan. The local coordinating entity’s matching funds—

(A) must be from non-Federal sources; and

(B) may be made in the form of in-kind contributions of goods or services fairly valued.

(c) Administrative.—There are authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary such sums as may be necessary for technical assistance, oversight, and administrative purposes.

So, this bill would authorize at least $1.75 million in new federal spending, in addition to obligating local government entities for at least $1.1 million in new spending.

Shame on you Congressman Dent! For someone who likes to criticize President Obama and Democrats in Congress for their out-of-control spending habits, and recently said "Congress must identify ways to further restrain federal spending," you certainly are doing nothing to help the spending situation by sponsoring this bill. In your recent statement in response to the President's 2013 Budget Request you stated, “As a member of the House Committee on Appropriations, I am particularly eager to participate in upcoming oversight hearings focusing on the President’s request. These hearings are crucial to identifying areas where tax dollars are not used effectively and prioritizing government spending.” This bill is what you call "prioritizing government spending?"  You further underfund Social Security, and spend more on creating nice walking trails in Allentown? 

And shame on all the Congressmen from Pennsylvania who have agreed to spend more taxpayers' money!  It's no wonder that with the exception of Congressman Thomas Marino, all of them co-sponsoring this "bring home the bacon" bill score less than 50% on the 2011 Club For Growth Congressional Score Card, and six of the seven Republicans have the lowest Republican scores in PA.

When will these guys learn?  Our eyes are wide open now and we're actually watching every single thing they're doing.  The hypocritical partisan rhetoric about spending and the debt is no longer forgotten, and we will hold their own words against them.  When will they learn the age old lesson that the first thing you need to do when you're in a hole is to stop digging?


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