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Forbes: ND fifth-piggiest state in U.S.

BISMARCK - All together now: Oink. Oink. That would be the sound of us getting into character if we believed Forbes magazine's Web site this week. Forbes.com has published a list of "The 10 piggiest states" and placed North Dakota at No. 5, sayin...

BISMARCK - All together now: Oink. Oink.

That would be the sound of us getting into character if we believed Forbes magazine's Web site this week.

Forbes.com has published a list of "The 10 piggiest states" and placed North Dakota at No. 5, saying the state received $123 per capita in "pork" in fiscal year 2006.

Alaska was No. 1 and Hawaii No. 2.

The story, "Bringing Home the Bacon," bemoans "dubious projects" members of Congress are promoting for the coming fiscal year.

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Forbes' "10 piggiest" is based largely on what it has determined to be "pork received per capita," apparently relying heavily on items that members of Congress earmarked.

But the article does not explain why Mississippi's $110 "pork per capita" rank it higher than North Dakota with $123. Forbes also doesn't say exactly how it defines "pork."

"We've seen some good examples of excess spending for lawmakers' pet projects back home, otherwise known as 'pork,'" the Web site story by reporter Brian Wingfield announces. He's talking about "earmarks" in 12 appropriations bills under consideration for passage by Sept. 30 for funding the government in fiscal year 2008.

Earmarks came under fire and scrutiny last year when projects such as Sen. Ted Stevens' so-called "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska were publicized.

Forbes notes that a lot of what it calls pork goes to certain states because its members of Congress wield power in appropriations, naming Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii; Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska; Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.V.; Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.

Dorgan and his colleagues in the North Dakota delegation dismissed the rankings.

"Providing food and energy for the nation and protecting the national defense does not represent pork - it represents solid value for the country," said Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D."

Dorgan said such rankings are usually "uninformed."

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He questioned how items like the Grand Forks flood control project, Dakota Water Resources Act and housing on Air Force bases could be lumped into "pork."

Water projects such as Dakota Water and Northwest Area Water Supply are not pork because they were promised decades ago when the federal government built Garrison Dam and flooded river bottom land and towns.

"That's the debt the federal government has owed this state," he said.

Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., said the state has "legitimate needs that the federal government helps fund" and he's proud to have helped bring in dollars for projects such as flood control and military base upgrades and plans to keep doing so.

Forbes' list differs slightly from a similar ranking that has been around a lot longer - the Tax Foundation's analysis of federal taxes paid vs. federal spending received in each state. That list is based on all federal spending, including Social Security payments and farm payments, not just what certain analysts label "pork."

That list was compiled every year from 1981 to 2004. The foundation is nonpartisan and non-ideological, while groups quoted by Forbes include known conservative-leaning groups such as the Heritage Foundation.

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