Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO) pressed Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael Connor yesterday, on his agency’s questionable use of taxpayer dollars to fund cash-laced government surveys. The questioning took place during a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power hearing “Examining the Proposed Fiscal Year 2014 Spending, Priorities and the Missions of the Bureau of Reclamation, the Four Power Marketing Administrations and the U.S. Geological Survey’s Water Program.”
Transcript of their Q&A:
TIPTON: Last year, the House voted 355-51 to ban the Bureau of Reclamation and other federal agencies from offering cash incentives to citizens for the completion of surveys. This amendment was inspired by your agency’s use of sending $2 bills to 10,400 households across the country to entice people to respond to questions about removing four Klamath Dams. Of the recipients who did not respond, better than 1200 received follow-up packets promising an additional $20 for the completion of the survey. This survey and the cash included with it cost hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. In retrospect, would you approve this cash-laced survey today?
CONNOR: We are certainly looking at the processes by which we do non-use surveys. The surveys themselves we do view as valuable, long used since the 1983 principles and guidelines, but we are looking into it.
TIPTON: No problem with the surveys, but paying for them. Given your opening comment on effectively using resources, is this a wise use of taxpayer dollars?
CONNOR: I think it’s a very fair point Congressman to ask that we re-look at how we do those surveys.
TIPTON: Great, are you aware of any surveys that are going to be cash-incentivized that you’re planning for this fiscal year?
CONNOR: I am not aware of any. But I’m going to check and follow-up on the record for you.
TIPTON: We’d certainly appreciate that.
Last year, Tipton successfully amended the Energy and Water Appropriations bill, with a bipartisan vote of 355-51, to prohibit the Bureau of Reclamation and the other agencies covered under the legislation from funding surveys in which money is included or provided for the benefit of the responder.
“First and foremost, sending cash in the mail to solicit responses to federal agency surveys is a blatant waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars,” Tipton said. “Second, collecting data this way is disingenuous, and fails to provide the unbiased feedback needed to give an accurate snapshot of public opinion.”
During the hearing, Tipton also asked Commissioner Connor how his agency planned on addressing aging infrastructure needs in light of the Bureau of Reclamation budget justification that cuts all funding from Reclamation Wide Aging Infrastructure.
The commissioner responded that they, “Have many avenues to address aging infrastructure…”
Tipton pressed further, asking if the recently passed Hydropower and Rural Jobs Act (H.R. 678) would be of benefit since it would, through increased hydropower development, help generate new revenue streams to help pay for aging infrastructure.
“We’re excited about the prospects of that bill,” said Connor.
Additional information from this hearing is available at the House Natural Resources Committee website.