It should come as no surprise that the dam burst on earmarks in fiscal year (FY) 2018. Congress had set the stage for a significant increase in every category of spending when the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2018 was approved on February 8, 2018. This legislation obliterated the spending caps set in the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) and increased spending by $143 billion, or 13.4 percent, in FY 2018 compared to FY 2017.
Citizens Against Government Waste’s (CAGW) 2018 Congressional Pig Book exposes 232 earmarks in FY 2018, an increase of 42.3 percent from the 163 in FY 2017. The cost of earmarks in FY 2018 is $14.7 billion, an increase of 116.2 percent from the $6.8 billion in FY 2017, or nearly nine times greater than the increase in discretionary spending. The only other time the cost has at least doubled was FYs 1992-1993. Since FY 1991, CAGW has identified 110,861 earmarks costing $344.5 billion.
The $14.7 billion in FY 2018 earmarks is more than half of the record $29 billion in FY 2006. At the rate of increase over FY 2017, earmarks could exceed the FY 2006 figure in two years.
While the BCA was successful in limiting spending, it was anathema to the members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. It coincided with the imposition of the earmark moratorium, which was first applied in FY 2012.
Nonetheless, CAGW was still able to identify earmarks in the appropriations bills every year since the moratorium. The number and cost for the first six years were much lower than they had been prior to the moratorium. On average, there were 109 earmarks costing $3.7 billion annually between FYs 2012 and 2017. But, like everything else in Congress, the restraint only lasted for a short period of time. Those historically low numbers have come to a crashing halt, thanks to the BBA, along with the failure of House Republicans to extend the moratorium.
Click here to read more from Citizens Against Government Waste, including the details on the most egregious instances of misspent taxpayer dollars.
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