Local bike paths, Washington money

Local bike paths, Washington money

November 14th, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

What is the federal government supposed to do -- and what are the limits placed on it by the Constitution? Well, the 10th Amendment states that "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Do you find in the Constitution any stated or implied congressional authority to pay for millions of dollars' worth of local bicycle paths, sidewalks and such? We don't.

And yet a number of cities in our area collectively requested $8 million in federal money to build bike paths and sidewalks, and to provide for stormwater control, landscaping and historic preservation. Do you feel it is appropriate for our area's bicycle trails and sidewalks to be funded by federal gasoline taxes paid by people in, say, Idaho or Missouri or Maine? Looking at it from the opposite direction, should residents of Chattanooga or Soddy-Daisy or East Ridge have to fund similar projects in far-flung states?

To be sure, all the projects for which federal money was sought may be worthwhile in themselves. But if Congress has the authority to pay for clearly local projects, what sorts of spending, specifically, is Congress not authorized to engage in? Are there any limits whatsoever on its power to tax and spend?

We should certainly hope there are. Because our $14.9 trillion national debt makes it amply clear that Congress is doing far too many things that our country cannot afford.