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Budget Reckoning

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Budget Reckoning

Recently, President Bush presented the Administration's Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Proposal. This proposal marks a starting point for bipartisan discussion about how we deal with the challenges our economy is currently facing.

As we work through the budget process, the fiscal blueprint our government needs to follow is one which provides a path to balancing the budget, preferably by returning to proven pro-growth policies such as making sure taxes do not hinder economic growth and keeping wasteful spending in check.

Making tax relief permanent for middle-class married couples, parents and working families is critical to ensuring our long-term economic growth. Such policies have a proven track record of strengthening our workforce, growing our economy, and keeping America competitive.

Any good budget must also take into account spending patterns. Between 1965 and 2006, spending by our federal government increased 250 percent, five times faster than the median income. Getting federal spending under control is no longer an option; it's a necessity.

And a good place to start is to take on Congress' habit of inserting special projects, called ‘earmarks,' into spending bills, often times inflating those bills to massive proportions with little or no oversight.

Earmarks can be a double-edged sword. It's important to ensure Nebraska taxpayers' money goes to meet important infrastructure needs of our state - our roads, our overpasses, and our highways. But we have to be mindful of those who would use the process to curry political favor or to enrich themselves. Right now the process is broken, and it must be fixed if we are to have any credibility when discussing fiscal responsibility.

Just a few days ago, a motion was put forward by the House of Representatives to immediately institute a moratorium on earmarks. This process has been broken for far too long, and this measure was a significant step towards restoring public trust in Congress and how your money is spent.

The President's budget also recognizes our nation's challenges go well beyond the next few years. As we enter the budget process, we must turn our attention to addressing the greatest threat to our nation's future strength and prosperity - the unsustainable growth of entitlement programs.

We can't fix this looming hurdle in one fell swoop, but doing nothing is not an option. There are essentially three options for resolving this impending crisis and sustaining the success of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security: 1) the government could raise taxes each year until they are 60 percent higher than they are today; 2) we could eliminate every federal program except these three; or 3) we could implement substantive and sustainable entitlement reform.

The need for immediate action is great: the first Baby Boomer becomes eligible for Medicare in 2011, and every year Congress does not address unfunded entitlement obligations, their size grows an additional $2 trillion, according to Comptroller General David Walker.

As a member of the House Budget Committee, I have the opportunity to help craft Congress' budget proposal. We have to take this opportunity to begin efforts to spend more responsibly, reform earmarks, and restore the fiscal discipline America needs.

Fulfilling the priorities of the American people doesn't require increasing taxes, nor does it mandate the federal government spending more. Instead, history shows us the best way to promote an economic turnaround, preserve jobs, and spur economic growth is to keep taxes low and regulatory burdens minimal.


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