If you're a lawmaker committed to reducing the size of the federal government, it isn't hard to find wasteful and bloated programs to cut.
In fact, I've already introduced legislation to reduce a wasteful government program. My Stop Green Initiative Abuse Act would end the Home Weatherization Assistance Program, a program found by the Tennessee Comptroller's Office to be ripe with waste, fraud and abuse. Elimination of this program would save the U.S. taxpayers approximately $2 billion.
Although cutting bad government programs is critical to our nation's fiscal health, there are legitimate federal agencies that waste billions of tax dollars. Under current law, federal agencies have to spend their entire budgets; therefore, they have no reason to find savings.
If an agency comes under budget at the end of the year, it often makes unnecessary purchases just to spend its money. This causes bloat and reduces accountability within our federal government, and we often end up with serious abuses of taxpayer funds.
For example, the General Services Administration recently spent roughly $830,000 on a trip to Las Vegas complete with a $7,000 sushi display and a $3,200 mind-reader. While this is an extreme example of waste, there are no doubt plenty of cases where excess funds were simply spent away at the end of the fiscal year.
I want to tackle problems like this, so I have decided to introduce the Employees of America Streamlining for Your (EASY) Savings Act in the House of Representatives.
My bill allows those who understand the agencies best — federal employees themselves — to find savings. Federal employees who notice surplus funds or unused budget authority can receive a reward, similar to what would happen in the private sector. The reward would be 1 percent of saved funds or up to $10,000, whichever is less.
Even better, the saved money would then be returned to the treasury for debt reduction. Finally, agencies would submit a report on their progress each year. This way, other agencies and lawmakers could learn the best practices to be applied throughout the federal government.
Some of these incentives have already been put into practice with excellent results. At the Securities and Exchange Commission, a 2011 cost-savings program yielded 48 employee suggestions for saving money. Three of these suggestions were adopted, and the SEC is expected to save roughly $50,000 per year as a result.
When applied across the federal government, these identified areas of small savings can add up quickly. This program is especially effective, because it can be difficult for lawmakers to identify areas within a federal agency where smaller savings may be achieved.
Cutting spending and reducing the size of our government can be a challenge; however, it is a challenge that must be addressed. Both our liberty and our financial future depend on returning to fiscally conservative principles and reducing the debt burden for our children.
While my legislation is a small step in righting our fiscal house, it is a step in the right direction towards ensuring that our federal agencies operate cost effectively.
When a bloated government does too many things, as is currently the case, government often doesn't do anything well. I want to see a small government that is effective at delivering on its core functions and is efficient with taxpayer dollars.
The EASY Savings Act applies private-sector incentives to our federal government, so let's make it a part of our debt-reduction strategy.
Online: Knoxville News Sentinel