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Ron Kind: Congress must restore fiscal sanity

June 17, 2013
In The News

La Crosse Tribune


Growing up in La Crosse, I had the value of a dollar instilled in me at a very young age. It’s a value we share here in Wisconsin. Families and businesses from West Salem to West Allis know how to manage their budgets, make the most out of every dollar, and tighten their belts when times are tough.

My commitment to fiscal responsibility starts in my office, where I have direct control over the budget. Working with my staff, every year I have identified savings and cuts that we can make in order to operate my federal offices — two Wisconsin offices and one in Washington — in the most fiscally responsible manner possible.

In 2012, I found $81,326 in my office budget to return to the U.S. Treasury, bringing the total amount of federal funds that I have returned to taxpayers to over $1.4 million since I came to Congress. Last year’s savings are on top of the sequester cuts facing the federal government, which during 2013 will lower my office budget by 8.2 percent.

Of course, my annual budget givebacks are not going to solve our budget problems alone. But that’s no excuse to not do what I can, with the budget I control, to make a stand on behalf of the taxpayer and show that it’s possible for elected officeholders to provide excellent constituent service on a lean budget.

Beyond office budgets, there are plenty of concrete steps that Congress can take to restore fiscal sanity to Washington. We can oppose the automatic cost-of-living increase for members of Congress, as I have consistently done since I was first elected. We can reform the tax code to make sure everyone pays their fair share and middle-class families don’t get squeezed. And we absolutely must reform the following three areas if we truly want to get our financial house in order:

Rising health care costs: The Affordable Care Act is already helping rein in costs, but there is more work to be done to not only lower costs but also change our health care system to value quality of care over quantity of services.

Defense spending: We need to overhaul our defense spending to both save money and better equip our military with the tools they need in the 21st century. A good start would be to stop sending the military outdated weapons and vehicles that they don’t even want.

Outdated taxpayer-funded farm subsidy programs: Our current farm subsidy programs are an unfair burden on taxpayers, do not help family farmers and have distorted the global marketplace. We need to stop the flow of taxpayer dollars to wasteful farm subsidies that fund only a handful of large agribusinesses. We can do that while still providing a safety net for family farmers.

We need to work together to tackle our long-term fiscal challenges and pay down the debt so that our children and grandchildren aren’t stuck with our unpaid bills. Cuts will have to be made, but we need smart cuts that allow us to continue making investments in areas such as education, scientific research and job training to keep us competitive in the global economy.

From my office budget to comprehensive budget reform, I’m fighting to bring fiscal discipline to Congress. It’s how we do it in Wisconsin, and it’s what we need to do in Washington.