‘Boondoggle’ bill requires reports on projects facing cost overruns, delays

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The Office of Management and Budget would be required to disclose any infrastructure projects that are more than $1 billion over budget or more than five years behind schedule under a bill that has passed a Senate committee.

A companion bill in the House has been introduced in two committees.

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Oct. 25 passed Senate Bill 1258, the “Billion Dollar Boondoggle Act of 2023.”

Sponsored by Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, the bill would require the director of OMB to submit an annual report listing every project that is $1 billion or more over budget or five years or more behind schedule. It would also require an “explanation for the delays and added costs as well as the identification of the contractors,” Ernst said in a press release.

Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst said her “boondoggle” bill “ensures greater transparency and accountability to guarantee taxpayers are protected from funding blank checks for failed projects.”

Bloomberg News

Ernst, who has introduced the bill in past sessions, has singled out for criticism the California high-speed rail project, long plagued by cost overruns and delays. She has also targeted Maryland’s Purple Line project and San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit system extension.

The 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act already requires the Department of Transportation to report projects that are more than $1 billion overbudget or delayed. Ernst’s bill would expand that to all taxpayer-funded infrastructure projects.

“My bipartisan bill ensures greater transparency and accountability to guarantee taxpayers are protected from funding blank checks for failed projects,” Ernst said. “This measure is commonsense and straightforward and it is one step closer to becoming law. With our national debt quickly approaching $34 trillion, I am hopeful the Senate will pass this bill to hold the big spenders in Washington accountable for misspending and mismanaging taxpayer dollars.”

The House companion, H.R. 1180, has been referred to the Committee on Oversight and Accountability and the Committee on Armed Services. Wisconsin Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher sponsored the bill, which is co-sponsored by three Representatives, including California Democrat Rep. Katie Porter.

The public reports would include “a description of the project, any changes to the project’s requirements, the original due date and expected completion date, and some financial information,” according to a Dec. 22 cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, which estimated the bill would cost less than $500,000 through 2028. The bill also would require OMB to issue guidance on the reporting requirements, the CBO noted.

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