Today U.S. Congressman Dean Heller (R-NV) testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Legislative Branch to advocate against any increase for individual House office budgets otherwise known as Members' Representational Allowances (MRA).
"Fiscal responsibility should be a bipartisan value. As businesses are forced to cut jobs and millions of American families are struggling to make ends meet, Congress continues to increase its own operating budget. While Americans are losing their jobs, homes are going into foreclosure, and small businesses are struggling to survive, Congress continues to create record deficits. Federal spending is out of control and Congress should do more than pay lip service to fiscal responsibility. It is time for Congress to lead by example and make government live within its means," said Heller.
MRA's have increased by 49 percent since 2000, more than $202 million in the last decade. A copy of Congressman Heller's statement as written is below.
Statement by Congressman Dean Heller
House Appropriations Subcommittee on Legislative Branch
Legislative Branch Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2011
Madam Chairwoman, Ranking Member Aderholt, Members of the Subcommittee,
Millions of American families are struggling financially. Some counties in my district are facing 16 percent unemployment. Statewide, unemployment is hovering around 13 percent -- well above the national average of 9.7 percent. Nevada's current unemployment rate is the highest rate of joblessness since we began keeping record in 1976. My state has also been hit hardest by the wave of foreclosures sweeping the United States.
Those lucky enough to have a job are also making tough decisions. Moms and Dads across the country are sitting around the kitchen table, deciding what must be cut from their family budget to ensure they can pay their bills and feed their children.
Meanwhile, our nation as a whole is facing a debt of more than $12 trillion.
I don't believe these financial challenges can be solved in one day, one appropriations bill, or even one presidency. But I do believe that we, as individual Members of Congress, must lead by example and demonstrate fiscal responsibility -- just like those families making tough decisions at their kitchen tables.
Until this Congress addresses the fundamental challenges facing our economy, I believe we need to start feeling the same pain as the American people. When it comes to our own office budgets, Congress has spent without regard for our constituents' hardships. For example, Members' Representational Allowances (MRA) have increased 49 percent since 2000. In other words, the MRA account has grown more than $202 million in less than a decade.
I can tell you that my office could easily use an MRA increase. My district is 105,000 square miles and represents 95 percent of the entire state of Nevada. Travelling my largely rural district and staying in touch with my constituents takes a significant amount of MRA funds. But many of my constituents, and many of yours, are making due with less than they had last year. As public servants, we have a responsibility to do the same.
For this reason, I strongly urge the Subcommittee to maintain level MRA funding for fiscal year 2011. I also would like Congress to consider legislation I introduced, The Reduction of Irresponsible MRA or TRIM Growth Act, to prevent the MRA from increasing during times of high unemployment or public debt. The TRIM Growth Act would prevent the MRA from increasing unless national unemployment is 6 percent or less for at least six months, consistent with the unemployment levels of the 1990s, or Congress reduces the national debt to less than $5.5 trillion, which was a reduction of 20 percent at the time this bill was drafted.
Madam Chairwoman, Members of the Subcommittee, I hope that you will consider the economic realities this country is facing as you craft the fiscal year 2011 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill. Give this Congress a chance to lead by example with commonsense fiscal responsibility. Let's tell those Americans who are figuring out their family budget at the kitchen table today that they are not alone. I thank the Subcommittee for its time and for this opportunity to speak on behalf of my constituents.