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2010-11-25 digital edition

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2010-11-25 / General Stories

Congress Must Cut Spending & Ensure Accountable Budget Process

by U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison

Republicans in the House and Senate recently took an historic step and voted to support a moratorium on Congressional earmarks. I supported this effort because it will give Congress the opportunity to make our nation’s budget process more transparent and accountable, and it will allow us to focus on cutting spending.

As the elected representative of the people of Texas in the United States Senate, in addition to serving our national interests, I have been charged with protecting our state and keeping Texas taxpayers on an even playing field with others. And, in the process of fulfilling that duty, I have fought hard to bring federal resources to projects that have been prioritized by communities in Texas and where there is a national service.

At Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, I was able to direct spending to build up infrastructure so it could attract a new mission; that made it attractive when the Army decided to move its headquarters for Army South Command. Both Fort Hood and Fort Bliss were once in danger of being diminished or closed, but now, thanks in no small part to our ability to direct federal resources, they are two of the largest and most important training installations in America. Administration decisions to shutter these bases with their unusually large land space for training would have been very detrimental to the requirements we need today but were unanticipated at the time. Congressionally-directed support to significantly deepen and widen the Houston Ship Channel is ensuring the Port of Houston remains competitive with ports around the world. Through Congressional designations, I have been able to help Houston Metro and DART get robust mass transit systems up and running, allowing our metropolitan centers to operate on par with other major cities across the nation that have received federal support. There are scores of other initiatives that have been equally important to communities across Texas, and I believe that by supporting them, I have done the right thing for our state, its citizens, and our servicemen and women - and helped create jobs for Texans that contribute to the economic prosperity of America. Without our Congressional delegation prioritizing Texas, much of this would not have been achieved.

But, the fact is that overall government spending is out of control and our focus must be to cut spending across the board.

On November 2, American voters sounded a clarion call against President Obama’s big government agenda - particularly the massive health care reform bill, the stimulus, his agencies’ overregulation, and his continual push for more deficit spending. Voters are demanding that Congress get the nation’s financial house in order, and Republicans are willing to take steps large and small to achieve results.

However, our reform efforts in Congress will be inconsequential if we aren’t also stringently overseeing executive branch earmarks. If Congress does not direct any spending, the president will have total discretion over all federal programs. The president will set all the priorities for spending our taxpayer dollars.

In just two years, the Obama Administration has proven to be a poor and partisan steward of funding. The $800 billion so called “stimulus” - allocated solely at the discretion of the Obama Administration - is teeming with examples of waste and abuse. Some standout projects include $3.4 Million to the Florida Department of Transportation to build an “Eco- Passage” to allow turtles to safely cross under a roadway; $450,000 for 22 concrete toilets in the Mark Twain National Forest; $325,000 to study the mating decisions of female cactus bugs; $300,000 to buy a helicopter equipped to detect radioactive rabbit droppings; and $500,000 to study the impact of global warming on wildflowers in Colorado. Further, it has been reported that, on average, Democratic Congressional districts received 81 percent more stimulus funds than Republican districts.

Unelected bureaucrats and political appointees in Washington are not accountable to the people. They should not be empowered to arbitrarily distribute taxpayer dollars with little or no intimate knowledge of a state, district, or community’s need - or worse, guided by a political agenda that will serve some and neglect others. States like Texas could be severely impacted if the Obama Administration has complete control over agency budgets.

Thus, it is critical that we eliminate the waste and abuse of earmarks both in Congress and the executive branch, and Republicans are trying to start the process of reform that is essential to address the crushing national debt.

The best way is to set spending caps at 2008 levels. At a recent meeting of Senate Republicans, I offered a resolution that was unanimously adopted to make it our policy to return all unspent stimulus funds. I will be working on this and other proposals to restore fiscal sanity in Congress.

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