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Federal Spending, Regulation Strangling American Taxpayers

Op-Ed

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With a $1.5 trillion deficit projected for this year, it's clear that our economy is still ailing. We can't treat the symptoms while the underlying cause, spending, continues to ravage the economy unabated. If we do, in five years the national debt will be larger than our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Something needs to be done now.

The first step to chipping away at this colossal deficit would be to limit and reduce the cost of regulation. The economic burden of regulation on the American people totals $1.75 trillion annually -- nearly twice as much as all income taxes. collected. And just last year, the Obama administration unleashed 46 new regulations that will cost us an additional $26.5 billion.

To be sure, not all regulation is unwarranted, and common sense rules play an important role in our economy and in keeping the American people safe. However, common sense has been lost in a regulatory process that has become politicized and wrought with bureaucracy and overlap.

Ten of the 46 new regulations from last year came from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alone -- including regulation on what type of light bulbs we should buy, how many miles to the gallon our personal vehicles must get and how efficient our home appliances must be. These regulations run counter to free-market principles and amount to a $23.2 billion annual drain on the economy. We can't continue down this path.

I'm exploring ways to cut back regulation, including possible legislation that would require a regulatory impact study (RIS). This study would fully disclose the costs of regulation to taxpayers, reveal the long-term economic impact, and eliminate regulatory overlap and conflict.

In addition to the RIS, we must also revise the way regulation is enacted, by putting authority back in the hands of Congress, rather than allowing government agencies free regulatory rein. This type of transparent oversight would go a long way to reducing overregulation, while saving taxpayers billions.

Another area that seems ripe for budget cutting is the numerous infrastructure boondoggles that make taxpayers stomping mad. It's clear that America needs a high-quality, reliable and safe transportation system. This is key to our economic future and our quality of life. Yet faulty and often deceptive budgeting coupled with rosy and unrealistic cost projections prevent taxpayers from accurately assessing the long-term costs of the project.

Just recently, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had the gumption to shut down a commuter rail tunnel project across the Hudson River to New York City whose costs had doubled over its original estimate, soaring to $10 billion. New Jersey simply couldn't afford it.

Like the famous "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska, this is now the tunnel to nowhere, because a realistic cost projection of the project was nowhere to be found.

Taxpayers are increasingly aware of the sleight-of-hand budget gimmicks that tax-and-spenders use to hide the real, overall cost of these projects. The solution isn't to stop building roads and infrastructure, but to use a wide array of statistical information and actual knowledge from paving projects to produce a far more accurate, and significantly more transparent, approach to the costs of building and managing our roads and bridges.

"Life-cycle budgeting" is a fancy name for what Colorado families and businesses do every time they contemplate a big purchase. For example, who would put a new roof on the house without asking how long one type of shingle would last versus another? Or who would buy a car without figuring in the interest on the car loan or the cost of maintenance?

Yet when government builds projects, too often the focus is only on the "sticker price," not its costs over time. That practice is shortsighted and unsustainable.

Why does life-cycle budgeting save money?

It forces those who would spend taxpayer dollars to give a full accounting of the direct costs of building a project and the projected costs to maintain it over time. It lets taxpayers know exactly how cost-effective a project will be and helps accurately identify the lowest-cost way to bring the project on line.

This is the kind of accountability and transparency that Americans are clamoring for. By cutting spending and changing the way we think about budgeting, we can make significant strides toward reducing our debt, getting our economy back on track to sustain job creation, and restoring a predictable climate that encourages growth through responsible spending and investment, rather than increasing uncertainty by adding to a runaway deficit.


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