The federal government has at least $70 billion that has languished for years in unspent accounts, never reaching the states, localities, businesses and taxpayers the money was designed to help, according to a new report by Sen. Tom Coburn.
Mr. Coburn, the Senate’s chief waste-watcher, said in many cases politicians and bureaucrats ignored money already in the pipeline and went out to try to corral more funding instead.
This year alone the government will carry more than $2 trillion in unspent money into 2013, and while much of that money is obligated to specific expenditures in future years, Mr. Coburn said about a third has not been, “meaning it is essentially money for nothing.”
The $70 billion figure is money that’s been unspent for years, including $13 billion in road-building money that was earmarked to the wrong places, or for projects that states and localities no longer want to build.
In one case Mr. Coburn said $29 million was dedicated to a highway interchange in Newport News, Va., in 1998, but the state abandoned the project. The congressman who sponsored the earmark died in 2000, but the money remains unspent.
In another case Atlanta is still holding onto $2.7 million in funding that was allowed to be spent only on the 1996 Olympics.
“A dollar taken from the taxpayers left unspent is a dollar not needed by the government or a dollar that did not go to someone in need,” Mr. Coburn said in a letter accompanying his report. “It represents a failure to budget wisely.”
The $70 billion has built up over years. By comparison, the federal government is projected to run a $1.2 trillion deficit this year.