Back in 2011, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report detailing more than $100 billion in federal spending that was being wasted on duplicated programs — programs that create or do things that are already being done by another program. I shared copies with my colleagues and pointed out the absurdity of page after page of examples, so many of which were duplicating services in existing programs already desperately in need of fixing.
The GAO has since released a follow-up report that details the progress of Congress’ efforts to correct the absurd problems recognized in the first report, and sadly it appears that little has been done. Many Congressmen have found ways to avoid the suggestions made in the report or skirt the rules that should otherwise prevent this from happening. As frustrating as this is, I wanted to update you on an ongoing effort that I’m pushing to help crack down on this and prevent it from happening now and in the future.
To help correct these efforts to further bloat government, I joined a bipartisan group of my colleagues and together we introduced legislation that will help weed out these unnecessary proposals and strengthen the programs that already exist. The bill is just three pages long, and achieves one simple goal. It would require Congress to do one thing before a piece of legislation is introduced or voted on — make sure our government is not already doing it. It would assess whether whatever the legislation does or achieves has not been done before, and ensure that a similar agency, program or initiative does not already exist or is not currently handling whatever the issue may be. The Congressional Research Service would be required to look at each new piece of legislation and issue a “Duplication Score” that would flag any bill that would waste money doing things that are already being done. If our government is going to spend tax payer dollars on something, we should make sure they first take steps to fix and improve what we already know works or could work better, not create more and more government.
The examples of the layers and layers of duplicated programs are alarming. The federal government currently administers 56 financial literacy programs spread across 20 separate federal agencies. There are 14 different government programs that exist solely to reduce diesel emissions. There are 94 separate federal initiatives that promote green energy building within the private sector, all administered by no less than 11 different federal agencies. Whether you agree with the overall intent of these programs or not, one thing is clear—there’s a better and more efficient and cost-effective way to do this.
With numbers like that, it’s no wonder so many people view the federal government as a complex maze of red tape and unnecessary dead ends. Nobody in their right mind believes we need a bigger government. Ask anyone here at home and they’ll tell you that what we need is a better government, one that works for the people it is intended to represent. Getting rid of the duplication and waste and red tape that so often reduces our government’s response to molasses-like speeds are the absolute first places we should start. Common sense tells you that the answer or solution to an unnecessary and problematic government policy or program should absolutely never be another unnecessary government policy or program.
Misguided efforts like this are exactly why I helped introduce and voted for the Balanced Budget Amendment — because it’s beyond time that Washington starts to act like they’ve got some common sense when it comes to spending. These duplicated programs and measures are a perfect example. You and I would never be able to run our family’s budget or our small business and follow the same reckless approach and still be successful, and in no way should government be held above the law or treated any differently. I’ve been honored to participate in programs that teach elementary school children the fundamentals of budgeting, and there are 5- and 6-year-olds that will tell you that you cannot spend money you don’t have.
This week, Congress passed legislation to fund the Department of Transportation, and I’m happy that many of the funding levels and amendments voted on to the bill helped highlight and end duplicated or unnecessary funding measures, and the final version that passed took major steps to reduce spending. We were able to safely reduce salary accounts and cut administrative expense accounts back to former funding levels.
One amendment that passed will save our government approximately $1 billion by eliminating a provision in the bill that would have approved funding for San Francisco’s Third Street Light Rail Subway project, a short extension of a Light Rail system through part of the city. Reports released by the very same local agency that runs the subway system estimates that the new extension will benefit just one percent of Light Rail commuters in the city, which would amount to some 7,314 people. I cannot think of a single acceptable instance of spending $1 billion dollars to help 7,000 people. It’s absolutely absurd that such funding was even inserted in the original bill, and I was glad to join in a bipartisan effort to eliminate this funding.
I’m proud to support efforts to weed out instances of waste in our government, and I assure you that I will continue to work to find common sense solutions to the problems we face. Also, many of you have reached out to our district offices to request assistance in dealing with the federal government, from help getting the Social Security or veterans benefits you are owed, to cutting through the red tape of any agency you may be dealing with. The caseworkers in our district offices take tremendous pride in helping people, and I urge you to reach out to them if you or a friend or family member needs assistance
It’s an honor to represent you, and I encourage you to continue to keep in touch with our offices to let us know the ways that you feel government can work better and there areas where you believe government has no business being. Your thoughts and concerns and ideas are with me with each and every vote I cast.