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Keep Your Eye on the Budget

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Keep Your Eye on the Budget
DATE: January 21, 2005

Serious budgetary challenges await the start of the 109th Congress. Federal spending has leaped 23 percent in the past three years causing concern about budget deficits. Unless spending is brought under control, Americans will face substantial tax increases and a slowing economy that provides fewer jobs and lower incomes.

Encouragingly, President Bush has pledged to set a course to cut the deficit in half over five years. I was pleased by the President's call to control spending and cut the budget deficit-not by raising taxes, but by being good stewards of taxpayer money. While this is a step in the right direction, I would argue that we need to be even more ambitious in controlling spending.

This should begin in the first stages of the budget process when decisions are made as to how much money should be spent. The federal budget cycle begins each February when Congress receives the President's proposed budget. Unfortunately, most of the attention by many Congress watchers is on the last stages of the appropriations process when spending bills are finalized. By that time, it is often only a matter of where spending will go, not whether or not it will be spent, and decisions that some would consider wasteful have already been made. It is the budget at the beginning of the year that sets the stage for how fiscally responsible government spending will be.

I believe that cutting wasteful, unnecessary, and inappropriate spending should be a Congressional priority. In the 108th Congress, I supported several measures promoting the establishment of a balanced budget. In 2003, I was one of only 80 members of the House of Representatives to vote for an amendment to the FY 2004 budget, which would have achieved a balanced budget in 4 years and frozen total discretionary spending for one year. In 2004, I was joined by 115 Representatives in supporting an alternative budget that would have decreased discretionary spending by $8 billion and cut the deficit in half in three years as opposed to five.

In addition, I was a cosponsor of Representative Ernest Istook's balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, H. J. Res 22. This amendment would force Congress to rein in government spending and make the tough choices among priorities.

Congress has a clear choice in the coming months. We can control spending, paving the way for a return to surpluses and ultimately paying down the national debt, or we can allow out of control spending to lead us further down the road of chronic deficits and in doing so leave our children and grandchildren saddled with debt that is not their own. Even in these challenging times it is important for government to be fiscally responsible. Families, businesses and state and local governments have all had to tighten their belts. It's time the federal government did the same.

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