The current budget situation is critical and the numbers are unfathomable. If left unchanged, over the next several years we will add trillions more in annual deficits to our already staggering debt and tens of trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities. Unfortunately, leadership on this issue has been nonexistent from the Executive Branch. Year after year, President Obama has released unserious budget proposals – failing to receive the support of even his own party.
In February 2015, the Obama Administration released its budget proposal for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, which despite our fiscal problems included a $474 billion deficit. Even though it called for $2.1 trillion in new tax increases, the FY2016 budget proposed by President Obama put the United States on a path to $25 trillion in gross debt by 2025.
In 2016, the President followed the same path in his FY 2017 budget. Overall, this budget was more of the same – an explosion of new taxes, no constraints on our skyrocketing federal debt, and a double down of failed federal policies. Not only did this proposal include a $10 per barrel tax on oil, it included a staggering $3.4 billion increase on taxes to accompany $2.5 trillion in spending. One again, this budget failed to take concrete steps to address our debt, deficit and fiscal crisis.
I have often said that you cannot cut your way to prosperity. I also believe that the same is true about taxes; you cannot tax your way to prosperity. While it is obvious that some cuts must be made, many reforms must be undertaken, and some new revenue must be generated.
I supported a different approach to combating our fiscal problems – H. Con. Res. 27, A Balanced Budget for a Stronger America, which takes a number of balanced steps to eliminate wasteful spending, reform entitlements, cut the size of government, strengthen national security, and balance the nation’s budget over ten years. The bill, which sets budget levels for Fiscal Years 2017 to 2025, passed the House on March, 25, 2015 by a vote of 228 to 199.
This budget would accomplish the following goals:
- Ensures a Strong National Defense: First, it protects the homeland from threats both foreign and domestic by strengthening national security, providing robust funding for troop training, equipment and compensation, and boosting defense spending above the president’s level.
- Expand Economic Opportunities: Second, it works to expand economic opportunities across the nation by reforming our broken and outdated tax code to create jobs and increase wages.
- Balances the Budget: Third, the plan balances the budget in less than 10 years without raising taxes, and calls on Congress to pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
- Secures our Future: Fourth, it works to strengthen Medicare by making structural improvements to save the program.
- Reduced Spending: Fifth, it ensures that any spending cuts are sensible and specifically targeted, in addition to cutting waste, fraud and abuse in government. For example, the budget would cut spending by $5.5 trillion over the next ten years and puts an end to spending money the United States does not have.
On October 26, 2015, the House and Senate both announced a two-year budget agreement that was negotiated with the White House and included several provisions, including a 2 year suspension of the nation’s debt limit. The agreement lifted spending caps for both defense and non-defense discretionary spending by a total of $80 billion over the next two years. In order to pay for the additional spending, the Act included the sale of 58 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve from 2018 to 2025, with the potential for more sales in order to modernize the facility where it is held.
On October 28, 2015, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1314, the legislative vehicle for the deal, by a vote of 266 to 167. I was among those voting against passage in part due to my concerns with a carte blanche suspension of the nation’s debt limit and the speculative offsets proposed to pay for this plan, including a sell-off of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. While I believe defaulting on our debt is both irresponsible and reckless, I also believe as a nation we must not give up on addressing federal spending and the leading causes of our spiraling debt. Ultimately, the Senate passed the bill by a vote of 64 to 35; and the President signed it into law.
For years, our nation’s fiscal and economic policies have moved us further away from the path to prosperity and closer to financial ruin. With a sprawling national debt, a growing federal government and endless government waste, Congress must make the difficult but necessary choices to get this country back track and restore fiscal sanity. Alaskans and Americans should understand that there’s no perfect solution to our fiscal woes, but we must strive for a better, more balanced form of government. We must continue to pursue budget proposals that provide our small businesses and American families the relief they deserve, while reining in Washington, D.C.’s unsustainable spending.