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Sioux City Journal: OUR OPINION: Eliminate incentives for end-of-year federal spending

In terms of spending by federal agencies, this month is known as "Christmas in September."

"This is a period where the agencies are spending down their budgets this year, so they’ll get an appropriation from Congress that’s the same or larger next year, it’s called 'use-it-or-lose-it' spending. It's a spending binge ...," Adam Andrzejewski, founder and chief executive officer of Open the Books, told The Daily Signal in an interview this week.

Last year, according to the office of Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, federal agencies spent $53 billion during the final week of the fiscal year and $100 billion during the final month. That, Ernst's office said, was 15 percent more than was spent in September 2017 and 39 percent more than was spent in September 2015.

This, at a time when the federal budget deficit for the current fiscal year will exceed $1 trillion and total federal debt is a staggering $22 trillion.

Irresponsibility doesn't begin to tell this story.

Since unused money is returned to the Treasury, Ernst's office explained, federal agencies actually are incentivized to spend unnecessarily near the end of the fiscal year. In response, Ernst earlier this year proposed what she calls the End of Year Fiscal Responsibility Act. Her legislation would mandate spending in the final two months of each fiscal year would not exceed the average spent in the previous 10 months.

“Billion-dollar binge buying is no way to budget," Ernst said. "That’s why I am introducing a commonsense bill that would curtail the out-of-control, impulsive spending we so often see in Washington by removing incentives for government agencies to needlessly shell out their extra tax dollars at the end of the year. With our national debt now surpassing $22 trillion, Washington should be looking for ways to save by canceling or delaying unnecessary expenses, rather than encouraging bureaucrats to splurge on end-of-year wish lists.”

Ending incentives for needless federal discretionary spending (Ernst's legislation wouldn't apply to Social Security, Medicare or national security) is something we support, with enthusiasm. Its passage would be a step toward the fiscal sanity so lacking in Washington, D.C., today.

To read the article in the Sioux City Journal, click here.