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RJ Matson, CQ Roll Call

Making Congress Work for Us

Accountability and Transparency Needed in Budget Process


Last week, we witnessed the passage of a $1.3 trillion deficit spending package by Congress. The president signed it into law after expressing great reservations over the fact that certain components weren’t addressed and after various members of Congress voiced concern for the massive price tag that came along with it. Sadly, this has become the standard operating procedure for how Congress funds the federal government. It’s time for Washington to work for the American people and for our legislators actually to legislate instead of merely kicking the can down the road at the expense of American taxpayers and future generations.

Every time an “omnibus” bill is introduced, politicians from both sides of the aisle compile critical components such as infrastructure, national defense, care for our veterans, and immigration so that they don’t have to deal head on with these vital issues. Further, because of today’s political environment, programs like these would not pass as stand-alone bills. They often are attached to larger spending bills that are used as vehicles to carry them across the finish line. It has become common in today’s political landscape for opposing political parties to hold our nation hostage and to threaten to shut down the government. This posture is used by politicians from both parties to run against the party in power and is leveraged to endear incumbents with their base. The result is an esoteric mess that will be funded on the backs of our children with tax revenue that has yet to come to fruition.

Congress has surpassed $20 trillion in federal debt. The abuse of taxpayer dollars by those inside the Beltway must be addressed. Current elected officials in Washington can’t continue to treat our hard-earned money like a payday loan. It’s time to get our spending under control so we can hand the next generation a surplus and opportunity, not an albatross around their necks.

The current budget system is broken. It contributes to partisanship and gridlock in Washington. Both parties are too busy posturing for their next election and playing petty political games at our expense — failing to truly represent their constituents. The budget process is shortsighted and most often moves from one stop-gap measure to the next with very little oversight. We need foresight to engineer long-term solutions and the diligence to think about everyday Americans, not political persuasions and special interests.

Since the structure’s inception in 1974, only six times has there been a year in which both the presidential and congressional budgets have been submitted and appropriated on time. Before we address any line item in the budget, we need to reform the system, and improve fiscal management and oversight of government. The entire approach needs an overhaul. I believe that we should implement a two-year budget system reform that will hold politicians accountable to taxpayers. Well run local municipalities like Santa Maria and states like Texas run very effectively on a two-year budget system and they should serve as an example for Congress. This would give each Congressional session its own budget thereby paving the way for greater oversight and management for our financial stability. This would hold members of Congress accountable to voters when asking to be reelected.

At the core of my philosophy are accountability and transparency. We should move to integrate modern technology, so that the public can view, in real time, any revision to legislation as it moves through the process. Furthermore, we must limit the size of bills to a single subject so that the best ideas pass on their own merit. I believe we should require the sunsetting of out-of-date policies thereby allowing them to be brought back for periodic review. This would force underperforming programs to be adjusted, improved, or redirected toward our most pressing community needs. If a program isn’t providing a return on the taxpayer’s investment, Congress should be able to separate what’s working from what isn’t and invest resources to provide the maximum possible benefit to the American people.

We must implement government reforms to ensure that we aren’t incurring meaningless debt and that our communities are being best served now and in the future. We must get the deficit and debt under control. We must remain committed to creating responsible, business-minded decisions and thoughtful solutions that will balance the budget and get us back in the black. We must remove the political nonsense from what should be a straight-forward and honest process.

Let’s get Congress working again and holding Washington politicians accountable for their failures, no matter which party is at fault. We cannot accept the status quo any longer. Our nation and the future of our next generation depend on it.

Justin Fareed is a candidate for California’s 24th Congressional District.

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