Ernst: “Billion dollar binge buying is no way to budget”

Iowa Senator introduces legislation to halt federal agencies’ end-of-year shopping spree

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), known for making Washington “squeal,” is introducing new legislation that will halt federal agencies’ end of year “use-it or lose-it” shopping spree by removing incentives for the government to spend needlessly.

“Billion-dollar binge buying is no way to budget. 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,” said Senator Joni Ernst. “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.”

One of Washington’s most notorious traditions is the annual “use-it or lose-it” shopping spree by federal agencies. Since the money that is not used before the end of the fiscal year is returned to the Treasury, federal agencies are incentivized to spend needlessly in their last two months before the year’s end. The result is billions of dollars of annual unnecessary spending that otherwise could be saved.

Last year alone, during the final week of the fiscal year, federal agencies spent $53 billion of taxpayer money. In total for the final month of fiscal year 2018, the agencies spent nearly $100 billion, 15 percent more than was spent in September 2017, and a staggering 39 percent increase from September 2015.

Some of the last-minute purchases by binge buying bureaucrats included:

  • $4.6 million for lobster tail and crab;
  • $2.1 million on games, toys, and wheeled goods;
  • $1.2 million for sponsorship of Professional Bull Riders, LLC.;
  • $308,994 on beer and booze;
  • $201 million on advertising;
  • $53,004 for china tableware;
  • $40,379 on clocks;
  • $24,993 for candy and candy bars;
  • $17,900 for five tons of tater tots, ten tons of dry pinto beans, and five tons of dry pasta;
  • $11,816 on a commercial foosball table; and
  • $9,341 on a Wexford leather club chair.

The End-of-Year Fiscal Responsibility Act would limit an agency’s spending in the last two months of the fiscal year to no more than the average it spent per month during the preceding 10 months.  This limit only applies to discretionary spending. Entitlement payments, like Social Security and Medicare, and national security-related expenditures would be exempt and unaffected. 

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