Thursday, September 27, 2007

CAGW Names Sen. Feinstein Porker of the Month

CAGW Names Sen. Feinstein Porker of the Month; Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW); September 2007.

Washington, D.C. - Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) today named Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) Porker of the Month for September, 2007 for a provision inserted into the 2008 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Act that would obstruct the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) attempt to improve the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center.

In 2002, the VA began a review of all its properties as part of the Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES), to determine where money could be saved and facilities improved. Eighteen properties were identified in 2004 for additional analysis, including the West LA Center.

Sen. Feinstein would prohibit enhanced use leases on the West LA property as well as outlaw any sale of the land for private use. The VA is not planning on selling any of the land; however, it would like to enter into more enhanced use leases to stop wasting money on maintaining vacant and underused buildings. The VA is already engaged in contracts with UCLA, a Hollywood production company, a rental car company, and a theater. These agreements bring revenue to the VA through rent, save the VA money on maintaining excess buildings, and often provide discounts and services to veterans. Current leases bring in about $5 million a year.

The CARES report identified 21 abandoned or underutilized buildings, out of 91 on the campus, that the VA says it has no use for, which could be turned into valuable resources. The West LA campus is about to undergo a reorganization and modernization of its medical facilities and could use an influx of cash to pay for it. The CARES Stage Two Report on the property that came out August 24 notes that:

[I]t is likely that reuse proceeds will provide a substantial offset to the significant capital investments required to render facilities modern, safe, and secure. It is prudent to maximize the potential value of vacant buildings and underutilized land to increase resources available to meet future veterans healthcare needs. Compatible development options that reduce underutilized portions of the campus have the potential to generate resources to provide additional services and/or pay for improvements to VA owned facilities.

Sen. Feinstein wants to take away these additional sources of revenue and force taxpayers to continue to pay for the continued maintenance and liability of the excess property. If Sen. Feinstein’s language is allowed to be passed into law, the VA’s hands will be tied, the buildings will continue to languish, and funding for medical center improvements will have to be redirected from somewhere else.

Critics have speculated that Sen. Feinstein is going to bat for wealthy constituents concerned that development on the land would ruin the views from their homes and hurt property values. The VA center is surrounded by the ritzy towns of Beverly Hills, Brentwood, and Bel-Air, home to many celebrities and country clubs.

Whatever the motivation, the outcome of Sen. Feinstein’s plan would be harmful to veterans. For attempting to stymie the VA’s ability to cut waste and increase funding for improved veterans care at a time when our service men and women need it the most, CAGW names Sen. Dianne Feinstein its September 2007 Porker of the Month.

Citizens Against Government Waste is the nation’s largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government. Porker of the Month is a dubious honor given to lawmakers, government officials, and political candidates who have shown a blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers.

Comment: Feinstein is one of 100 reasons to repeal the 17th Amendment.

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