While President-elect Barack Obama has vowed to approve an economic stimulus package of epic proportions a few days after he takes office, taxpayers would be well served if Congress takes the time to make sure the estimated $1 trillion has strict oversight.

And while Democrats have been crafting a plan since December, they don’t appear to have offered any mechanism to monitor the money. That’s spells trouble in a Washington where a potentially pork-laden boat will be floating in lobbyist-infested waters.

And the leaders of state government are licking their chops, hoping to be bailed out of self-inflicted deficits that have ballooned to billions. They’re hoping for funding for what Obama has called “shovel ready” projects, those where planning, design and land acquisition has already taken place.

Clearly, much of the nation’s infrastructure, roads and bridges, have been deteriorating for decades. Both sides have agreed to that fact. But that doesn’t mean we allow, as Obama says, “roads to nowhere.”

The states apparently already have an advocacy group working for them. Building America’s Future has already identified $136 billion worth of state projects that are “shovel ready.” And there are already requests from ski resorts for snowmaking machines and myriad projects for zoos and aquariums.

The group contends some of the stimulus should be for critical roads and bridges but it should also consider things that will have a long-term economic return. That makes sense to some extent, as long as the roads and bridges get taken care of first.

Obama and his team must demonstrate how they will monitor these projects. Involving the Government Accountability Office in some way seems to make sense. These projects should also be completed in ways that taxpayers themselves would pursue and approve.

Would an average taxpayer actually require the same worker be paid a higher wage because it is a government project? That’s what state and federal prevailing wage laws dictate. For example, in Blue Earth County, a government project would be required to pay almost $19 per hour for a general laborer, $2 per hour, or nearly 12 percent, above the median wage for that work in the area. Things like prevailing wage laws were nice when government was flush with money, but they may not be applicable when taxpayers need to get the most bang for their buck.

Above all, Congress must have in place a clear accountability procedure — with public reports available to taxpayers — to monitor any stimulus projects before any stimulus package is approved.

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