Taxpayer group says water bill is earmark-free

The giant ports and waterways bill coming to a House vote this week is earmark-free, the watchdog Taxpayers for Common Sense said Monday.

The TCS also praised the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRDA) for putting a stop to "inactive" projects from past years totaling $18 billion, even though it noted this is a small dent in the up to $80 billion backlog.

A deal on the WRDA bill emerged from a House-Senate conference committee late last week after six months of negotiations. Delays were blamed in part on the lack of earmarks in the bill to smooth over disagreements on policy.

The $8.2 billion water bill authorizes major port and river infrastructure projects as well as storm levees and beach replenishment. Taxpayers for Common Sense in its analysis says a major levee system for Louisiana is wasteful as is funding for many beach projects. The group also wants to see a larger reform of funding streams for inland waterways, which are funded by the general treasury rather than through user fees. 

The Senate could also take up the WRDA conference agreement this week depending on whether talks on a bill renewing expired tax provisions yields an agreement.