It is impossible to discuss the state of our nation without addressing the looming disaster that is our national debt. Our current debt is over $15 trillion and increases by roughly $4 billion per day. In order to truly create long-term economic prosperity and get Americans back to work, we must address our addiction to spending.
I arrived in Washington last January knowing that I wanted to lead with principle and civility. During my 28 years serving in the Florida Legislature, I learned that leadership is sometimes best demonstrated by example.
That's why this week, I did two "little" things that I hope will have a BIG result:
I returned $4,700 to the U.S. Treasury from my Congressional salary, rolling it back to the 2008 level. I recognize that most Americans are working hard without any substantial raises during this difficult economic time and I don't believe Congress should be any different. Many policies to cut spending involve rolling back programs to the 2008 level.
I returned $453,000 from my annual office budget to the Congressional coffers. Each year, congressional offices are given a lump sum budget for staff, office space and supplies. Most Americans are doing more with less these days, and our office did the same -- and cut our budget by more than 31 percent.
You sent me to Washington to work for greater accountability and stronger leadership, and I've realized that in order to break the U.S. Government's addiction to spending, we must get our own fiscal houses in order before we tear down the walls of the other government programs.
Check out Sunday's Orlando Sentinel, which highlighted our office savings by naming me "Champ of the Week"
View a clip of my interview on CNN with Soledad O'Brien yesterday morning regarding my return of funds
I recognize that my combined savings, though a sizable amount, are merely a drop in the bucket compared to the enormity of our debt crisis. However, I know that changing the culture of Washington can only begin if individuals have the courage to take a stand.
Consider how much we could cut if we multiplied my savings by the many offices, departments and agencies throughout Washington. If we all tighten our belts and work together for the common good, we can begin to turn our debt crisis around.
By being a good steward of your tax dollars, I also intend to be a good steward of the trust you placed in me last fall. Though I am often frustrated with the partisan gridlock and endless bureaucracy that saddles Washington, I am continually humbled to be in this historic place and work hard to serve Americans.
Rest assured, it is my mission to change the culture of Congress, one step at a time. I will continue to fight for a future that is full of opportunity, and undaunted by the weight of generational debt.