Today, legislation authored by U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) to cut wasteful federal property spending that costs taxpayers $1.7 billion annually was passed by the House of Representatives. Rep. Quigley was the lead Democratic author of the Excess Federal Building and Property Disposal Act of 2011 (H.R. 665).
"The federal government is the largest property owner in the world, but billions of tax dollars are wasted each year maintaining properties we no longer need," said Rep. Quigley. "This bipartisan bill works to the benefit of taxpayers by encouraging the disposal of unneeded property and, for the first time, allows the American people to see a comprehensive list of the real property they collectively own and their government administers."
Currently, the federal government has an inventory of more than 900,000 buildings and structures and 41 million acres of land. Yet the Government Accountability Office has found many properties are no longer relevant to their agencies' missions. Nearly 14,000 buildings and structures have been deemed excess and more than 76,000 properties are identified as underutilized.
In fiscal year 2009, these underutilized buildings cost taxpayers $1.7 billion to operate annually. Staff members from Rep. Quigley's district office visited an Illinois property, reportedly worth more than $8 million, that costs taxpayers $80,000 a year to maintain. While the facility was recorded as being in excellent condition, staff saw the exterior overtaken by vegetation and the interior looted by vandals.
Rep. Quigley's bipartisan initiative, authored in partnership with Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), creates a five-year pilot program that lifts administrative hurdles to disposal and asks the Government Services Administration (GSA) to expeditiously dispose of 15 high-value, unneeded properties on a rolling list basis. It also empowers the GSA to help agencies identify and dispose of unneeded properties, and increases transparency by creating an online database for all property owned by the federal government.
"The Federal Building and Property Disposal Act is needed because the federal government owns too many buildings and structures. The current process to dispose of these excess properties is not working. With $15 trillion in debt, the federal government can no longer afford to foot the bill for excess buildings. This bill is bipartisan, will direct revenue to the US Treasury, and reduces operation and maintenance budgets. I encourage my colleagues in the US Senate to pass this important piece of legislation," said Rep. Chaffetz.
The bill incentivizes agencies to dispose of unneeded properties by allowing them to retain proceeds from property sales, and use those funds to pay for disposal costs. Any profits from sales not used for disposal costs will be used to pay down the deficit. A similar bipartisan bill, Federal Real Property Asset Management Reform Act, was recently introduced in the Senate by Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).
Rep. Quigley has been committed to good government reform in his two terms in Congress. He founded the bipartisan Transparency Caucus and recently released Reinventing Government: The Federal Budget Parts I and II, which establishes transparency in the budget process and offers 60 recommendations to save $2 trillion over the next 10 years. Rep. Quigley serves on the House Committees for Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform, and as the Ranking Member on the Oversight Subcommittee on TARP, Financial Services, and Bailouts of Public and Private Programs.