Report: ‘Orphan earmarks’ cost states millions

States have lost out on some $7.5 billion in federal highway money–including $149 million in Connecticut–because of unspent Congressional earmarks for transportation projects, USA Today says.

Transportation earmarks, in which a member of Congress directs spending toward a particular project, are a popular way to send money back to the home district. But a lot of the earmarked funds never get spent–because a project is scrapped, because the language of the earmark is faulty, because the work costs less than expected, or for many other reasons.

The problem, Cezary Podkul and Gregory Korte report, is that the earmarked money remains set aside–and it counts against the state’s allocation of federal Highway Trust Fund dollars. In the last 20 years, about $13 billion in transportation earmarks has been unspent, costing states the $7.5 billion in funding.