By Fred DuVal
February 29, 2012
Arizonal Daily Star
It has now been more than three years since Congress has passed a budget.
Remarkably, our federal government has been running for years on annual "continuing resolutions." And it has been 15 years since Congress passed all its appropriations bills on time.
In what family, business or enterprise of any kind is this neglect of duty permissible, while the people in charge hold on to their positions with a 90 percent return rate?
Apparently the people we send to Washington to set priorities and make decisions - don't. And there is virtually no accountability and no enforcement mechanism for the millions of frustrated citizens who have had enough of dysfunctional leadership.
On March 14, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee will hear the "No Budget, No Pay Act" that simply says to Congress, if you don't pass a budget and all appropriations bills by Oct. 1 of each year, then Congress members stop getting paid.
It is a brutal - but needed - wake-up call. It is the result of citizens saying, as Howard Beale did in the movie "Network": "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore."
The "No Budget, No Pay Act" is one of a dozen proposals made by No Labels, the citizen-based movement of Democrats, Republicans and independents who are advocating for common-sense solutions to make our gridlocked and hyperpartisan government work again.
This is an approach that is familiar to Arizonans, as our Legislature had the courage years ago to reduce legislative per diem after 100 days of session. It works here, and it works in California (where little else does) where the citizens passed Proposition 25, the "On-Time Budget Act." That stops legislative pay for every day the budget is late.
Beyond simple accountability being at stake here, there are real-world problems caused by government operating on continuing resolutions. A recent report by the GAO concluded that a number of critical government functions took the brunt of this irresponsibility. The FDA was unable to hire food inspectors in the face of an unexpected contamination, the Defense Department was unable to repair Humvees in the field, and the State Department was unable to hire for critical civilian positions in Iraq at the very time we were managing transfer of power back to the Iraqis.
These are just a few of dozens of examples.
But the impacts run even deeper than individual budget items. Standard & Poor's and the other rating agencies have plainly, and painfully, told us that that political disruption in Washington, manifested by the politics that surround the periodic debt-limit debates and the annual budget, are as much a component of the downgrading of our creditworthiness as the debt itself. The higher interest rates that result are felt in every house, car or student loan and by every American family seeking to make ends meet.
That America doesn't have an energy policy, an immigration policy or any number of basic requirements of a sovereign nation is bad enough. But setting a budget is certainly the minimum expectation we should have of our federal elected officials.
Let's get their attention. And this will. Please indicate your support for the "No Budget, No Pay Act" by communicating with your federal elected officials, particularly Sen. John McCain, who serves on the committee.
Fred DuVal is a businessman, civic leader and author who has served in state and federal positions of leadership for more than 30 years.