Note: This is the first in a new blog series about the issues that affect the Construction Industry.
Recently, the Obama administration announced that it is making $473 million in unspent highway funds available to states, with the purpose of using the money to improve infrastructure and create jobs.
Perhaps the first question on everyone’s mind should be: Where exactly is the money coming from? The funds were originally incorporated into 4 spending bills from 2003 to 2006 that were directed towards congressional pet projects, but for one reason or another were never used. In some cases the money went unspent because there was an error in writing the bill, the project did not ultimately need the funds, or because the funds were not sufficient enough to aid in a given construction project.
That last reason raises a serious issue with the funds allocated by the White House. Earmarks often go unspent because they are just a small portion of the money needed to tackle massive projects. Much of the money offered to states went unused simply because the amount was too small to make a difference.
The money given to each state is directly tied to what each state initially did not use from their earmarked funds. For example, Alabama stands to receive the largest amount of funding at $51.1 million. At the other end of the spectrum, however, North Carolina will receive a paltry $703,634. Wyoming, with no unspent earmarks, will get no money.
On paper, almost half a million dollars may look like a lot of money.