Money, Money, Money
Among the items to be reduced by the sequester – that 2.4 percent cut to the federal budget – are the office budgets for members of Congress. The Members’ Representational Allowance (MRA) will be adjusted downward when the sequester takes place on March 1.
The MRAs are adjusted based on various factors including how far a member must travel from his or her district to get to Washington; they were told in a memo on February 15 that there would be tentative spending cuts of up to 10 percent of their budget.
Apparently, “the memo gave no recommendations on how members should seek to get their budgets in line, and simply warned they should be careful about what they spend, given the looming cuts.”
Rather than look for guidance from internal bureaucrats, perhaps lawmakers and their staff could take a page from Congressman Jeff Duncan’s (R-SC) playbook. Duncan says that he runs his office like a small business, and by doing so, was able to return $200,000 to the U.S. Treasury. The lesson for the rest of Washington, as he sees it, is “to be responsible with taxpayer dollars.”
And he’s not whining about it. And he’s not afraid of the President’s fear tactics on the sequester. Neither is Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who managed to return $600 thousand to the Treasury.
The same cannot be said for some of his colleagues in the House. The complaining has commenced:
One veteran chief of staff lamented that his office hasn’t given raises to its employees for several years — worrying that without a reward for their hard work, it will be difficult to attract bright individuals to Capitol Hill.
We’re not asking for Hill staffers to be compensated poorly for the work they do. What we are suggesting is that lawmakers, especially conservative lawmakers, show a little bit of leadership. Salaries are not the only place that lawmakers can look when it comes to budgeting more responsibly:
One chief of staff told The Hill that some offices are considering paying for franked mail with campaign funds. Instead of spending close to $300,000 on mailings to constituents, the member would pay for that mail with his or her respective campaign money.
“Constituents would probably like it because a lot of them complain about the fact that we’re wasting money sending out mail to them,” the high-ranking staffer said in an interview.
Now we’re talking! Though this may be a “drop in the bucket” relative to our nation’s overall debt, it is this frugal mindset that lawmakers should adopt.