Column by Bob Goodlatte
The nation continues to face serious budgetary challenges, and it is time we take control of spending instead of letting it control the Congress.
Government programs have continued to expand while the amount of money available to spend has not kept pace. It is common sense to American families that they cannot spend more than they have – yet far too frequently, this fundamental principle has been lost on a Congress that is too busy spending to pay attention to the bottom line.
In the coming weeks, the president will send his proposed budget for fiscal year 2009 to the Congress. Congress will then begin to structure the budget using the president’s recommendations as a starting point. It is in these critical first stages of the process when decisions are made as to how much total money should be spent by the federal government. Unfortunately, most of the attention by many Congress-watchers is on the last stages of the appropriations process when spending bills are finalized. However, by that time the decision is no longer how much money should be spent, but rather where it will be spent and by whom.
We need to focus the debate back on where it matters most – the budget process at the beginning of the year where the decision is made regarding total federal spending for the year. It is the budget at the beginning of the year that sets the stage for how fiscally responsible government spending will be. Each year I vote for the tightest budget offered, but each year the Congress fails to adopt it and agrees to spend too much.
For these reasons, I introduced bipartisan legislation that would amend the United States Constitution to force Congress to rein in spending by balancing the federal budget. Forty-nine out of 50 state governments, including Virginia, have a balanced-budget requirement, and it is long past time that the federal government does as well. I am pleased that nearly 160 members of the House have signed onto my legislation, which ensures that the money our citizens work so hard to earn is not squandered on wasteful spending and programs.
My legislation would amend the Constitution to require that total spending for any fiscal year not exceed total receipts, and requires the president to propose budgets to Congress that are balanced each year.
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.
Bob Goodlatte represents Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District in the United States Congress. Contact him at www.house.gov/goodlatte/emailbob.htm.