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In this April 11, 2014 file photo President (Credit: AP)

In this April 11, 2014 file photo President Barack Obama shares a laugh with outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington.

On our minds: Money, traffic, bridge project

Newsday's editorial board spends all week striving to be a reasoned and pragmatic voice for Long Island and its values through our editorials and columns. We debate local, national and international issues and write on those we think will impact our readers.

Some topics come up that don't turn into longer pieces, but are part of the national conversation and worth bringing up. Here's how we're telling you about them.

The government owes each of us $851

$100 billion -- That's how much the federal
(Credit: iStock)

$100 billion -- That's how much the federal government paid out last year to people who had no right to the money. The payouts include improper tax credits, Medicare and Medicaid procedures that weren't needed and unemployment checks for the secretly employed.

To put it into context, if that money hadn't been wasted, the feds could have sent every household in the nation a check for $851. We get that nobody, and no government, is perfect, but Washington needs to rein in this excessive waste of taxpayer money.

This is a ridiculous, familiar pattern

Congress is racing the clock to keep federal
(Credit: Highway Patrol)

Congress is racing the clock to keep federal dollars flowing for road, bridge and mass transit projects. Should it fail, the Federal Highway Trust Fund will be running on empty as soon as Aug. 1.

Unfortunately, all that's on the table are proposals to provide $11 billion, enough to fuel the fund through May. So even if Republicans and Democrats agree on where the money should come from to prevent a crisis, they will have to do it again in a few months.

That's a ridiculous, but familiar pattern. Congress has passed 18 short-term highway funding measures in five years, making it difficult for states and localities to start long-term projects. Temporary funding beats no funding at all; 700,000 workers would be idled if the trust fund slides into insolvency. But Congress needs to find a way to finance this critical work for the long haul.

Loan from water fund for non-water project?

On Wednesday a state oversight board is likely
(Credit: Andy Jacobsohn)

On Wednesday a state oversight board is likely to approve a $511 million loan from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund for the new Tappan Zee Bridge. The Cuomo administration says borrowing from the fund will save $17 million in the first three years because of lower interest rates, keeping the tolls down.

Some environmental organizations object, however, saying that while there are projects tied to protecting wetlands the most costly ones, such as removal of the existing bridge, aren't. They fear there won't be enough money left in the fund to finance future local water infrastructure projects. But the administration funded more than 100 water projects, at a cost of $1.3 billion this fiscal year and had $1 billion left.

So if the state say's there's plenty of money left for new local projects, get those applications to Albany.