Weekly Columns

Washington Needs a Balanced Budget, Not More Blank Checks and Higher Taxes

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Washington, January 9, 2013 | Tiffany McGuffee (202-226-8072) | comments

Tennessee was recently named in the U.S. Business Policy Index as one of the twenty friendliest policy environments for small business and entrepreneurship in 2012. It’s easy to see why. First, we don’t have a state income tax. Second, unlike the federal government, Tennessee requires a balanced budget. This means that our state officials have to make choices about spending priorities, just like hard-working families do. Finally, we have right-to-work laws that encourage job creation and we don’t tie up the workplace with burdensome red tape and regulation. The federal government could learn a lot from the way the Volunteer State does business.

Washington, sadly, still continues to spend far more than it takes in. When fiscal cliff negotiations began, the president promised a balanced approach. But the final package—which did not include significant spending reductions—was anything but balanced. That is why I voted against the legislation. We must get our deficit under control, and the only way to do that is to cut spending.

Each year, Senator Tom Coburn compiles a list of some of the most outrageous government expenditures. Did you know that National Institutes of Health spent $666,905 to research why people enjoy reruns of old shows; the Department of Energy offered $100,000 worth of cash and prizes to reward invention of an app that already exists; or that the Department of Agriculture spent almost $50,000 to have Smokey Bear balloons at festivals around the American Southwest? And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Yet despite these obvious examples of waste, fraud, and abuse, President Obama won’t consider significant spending cuts as an alternative to raising taxes. As we begin to discuss raising our debt ceiling, President Obama must reevaluate his tax, borrow and spend policies.

One of the best ways to address out-of-control spending is to add a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is the first bill I cosponsored this Congress. Balancing our budget would require tough decisions, but I know it’s possible to do so without hindering economic growth. Tennessee has proven you can fund the essential services of government and keep your balance sheets in the black. Even better, you can do it without high taxes. According to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, Tennessee has one of the lowest state and local tax burdens in the country. Washington doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem. We need to keep money in the hands of families and businesses—not Washington bureaucrats. Only then can we create the opportunities and good-paying jobs that Tennesseans need.

Tennesseans know that businesses create jobs, not government. Among the reason why so many successful businesses are headquartered in Tennessee—with more moving offices and plants here each year—is the fact that we are a right-to-work state. Being right-to-work has nothing to do with whether you’re personally pro or anti-union—I grew up in a union household. It simply means that employees are given the freedom to choose whether or not to join a union. As a result, Tennessee has a more flexible workforce than more heavily-unionized states, which attracts employers, jobs, and economic development. To see this in action, compare the success of auto manufacturers operating in Tennessee against those in Detroit.

As this new Congress unfolds, rest assured that I will continue to fight for Tennessee values here in Washington. It’s time for the federal government to start acting with the same common sense that we exercise in communities across our great state. 

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