A new underground visitor center is under construction on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to provide additional security and to provide a better "experience" for visitors to the halls of Congress. Problem is, of course, the original cost of the project was $265 million but the final price-tag looks to come in around $500 million. Now that says much about the spending habits that have our economy in the state it is in.
The Capitol Visitor Center was a good idea in the beginning. It would modernize the entrance into the Capitol and provide added security in the wake of Sept. 11, the anthrax scare and the Capitol shooting of a few years back. But as with many other items impacted by the federal government, the cost of the facility took a backseat to the changing priorities of the feds.
First came an additional $70 million to expand office spaces for Congress. Then came another $35 million for added security. Then, just to be safe, came $48 million for cost overruns. And finally - who's kidding who here - came a $10 million tunnel as a possible escape route that would connect the visitor center with the Library of Congress. Who cares that there are already seven tunnels on Capitol Hill. Another $10 million tunnel might come in handy.
So now, with the project far from complete, the price tag has nearly doubled and it's not over yet. It goes without saying who is paying for this expensive lesson in government over-spending.
What the public needs to understand is this - it is not the current administration, it's not the interest rate, it's not the war with Iraq, etc. The problem with the federal government is that bureaucrats spend someone else's money so the public be damned. We can talk about the economy until we're blue in the face but until the day arrives when we spend taxpayer money as if it were our own, we'll continue to see $500 million centers that serve a limited purpose and that cost much more than planned.
If you were building a home and the estimates totaled twice what you had expected, what would you do? Well in most cases - unless your budget is unlimited - you'd make cuts to keep the costs in line.
That lesson has apparently been lost on the federal government.