Letter: A Closing of the Open Letter to the Honorable Congressman Duncan

My eyebrows raised in pride when I read of the things you'd voted against, or for, and not with the lockstep voting of nearly the entire Republican party, especially our two senators. I thank you for thinking outside the box in these examples. ["Still Independent," letter to the editor, April 12, 2012]

The 10 percent minimum preserved within the amendment made by a Republican and voted down by two votes (for example, yours and the chairman of the committee's) does indeed mean the states are "free to spend" as much as they wish. In fact, they won't be required to spend anything on these issues anymore. This is the more likely of the two situations. Without some regulation, it seems that people with money will do something other than what might benefit the greater population. No doubt, there are many shows on television that expose and even lampoon such behavior, including the nightly news.

So, what you are really saying is that the states might spend 15 or 20 percent on these Transportation Enhancement areas—there are 12 activities covered by this portion of the bill—but in truth, in today's environs it will be less than the 10 percent and likely, very much less. The elimination of this 10 percent set-aside has been decried by many—of course, those whose programs are affected, but also Republicans, Democrats, and even libertarians who enjoy the freedom to visit welcome centers on the interstate, bicycle on bike trails, and have their children educated on safety. They love to cut the budget but hate to see it affect their neighborhood, much like people who decry the Affordable Health Care Act but don't want to give up a dime of their Social Security or Medicare coverage. Yes, welcome stations and tourist centers, as well as safe walking routes to schools, are funded by this 10 percent, which was set aside as a mandatory expense for the states to make, and from what we can observe, every American uses these, not just Democrats.

Without the 10 percent set-aside, state governments are loathe to actually invest in these, while local governments greatly desire them because they are close to the people. Maybe that's the issue: A somewhat distant set of representatives who aren't "on the ground" as much as the local government reps—absentee officials who only become acutely aware of the frustration level when their offices become Occupied.

I understand perfectly what's being said: The states will be free to not spend a dime on inventory and removal of outdoor advertising, helping to preserve any old train stations, maintain bike paths or new trails forged from old railway lines; free to not spend a thing on scenic highways, historic preservation, landscaping or scenic beautification, or even building a tunnel for animals to escape the metal river of cars crossing their habitat. Yes, congressman, you were perfectly clear. Of course you are for them, but simply not for funding them.

Seva David Ball