CONGRESS MUST DO BUDGET JOB

July 20, 2012

Forty years in the newspaper business taught me the importance of meeting deadlines. Miss one and your story didn’t run. Miss two and you might never get a chance to miss another.

Students, taxpayers, workers of all kinds know the importance of deadlines — and the consequences of missing them.

Presumably, it’s a lesson the men and women of Congress once learned, too. Yet, it’s a lesson ignored, especially where budgets are concerned. Since 1996, 16 Septembers have turned to Oct. 1, the start of a new fiscal year, without a budget and all required spending bills passed on time.

Eventually, the work gets done in the form of late or temporary spending measures. There have been eight “continuing resolutions” this fiscal year alone. But real damage occurs.

Medical centers get delayed, military troops wait for delivery of critical supplies and governmental agencies drift, unable to hire key personnel to serve the people who put those 435 House members and 100 senators in office.

Not only is this practice disruptive, it’s disrespectful. We don’t elect “leaders” to abdicate their leadership duties so they can fit neatly into the prescribed roles their political parties dictate.

We elect leaders and we expect them to place service above all else, including political orthodoxy. To govern, which is to lead, is to find solutions to our country’s problems.

That may involve, heaven forbid, compromise. Those who fail should lose office. Short of that, they should lose their pay.

That is the essence of the No Budget, No Pay Act (HR 3643/S 1981). Fail to meet the budget deadline and you’ll lose your pay. The proposal has more than 75 co-sponsors, from both major political parties.

Among the Georgian sponsors are Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Reps. Jack Kingston (1st District), Hank Johnson (4th District) and John Barrow (12th District).

But 75 is a long way from 535. Congress’ failure to meet deadlines is one of the reasons nearly 500,000 citizens across the country have joined an organization called No Labels. Made up of Republicans, Democrats and Independents, No Labels only asks that Congress do its job. Its 12 common-sense proposals to make Congress work can be found at nolabels.org. “No Budget, No Pay” is one of the 12.

At a time when Congress behaves like a dysfunctional family, No Labels asks the question: How can we make things better? Positive reinforcement is a good place to start, but some-times tough love is required, too. No Budget, No Pay is a dose of tough love.

Please join me in encouraging all of our Georgia congressional representatives and Sen. Johnny Isakson to support No Budget, No Pay. You pay your taxes on time, you report to work each day on time, and I spent 40 years meeting newspaper deadlines.

We should expect nothing less from Congress.

Jay Smith, of Atlanta, is the retired president of Cox Newspapers Inc. and co-founder of No Labels.

http://www.ajc.com/opinion/congress-must-do-budget-1481910.html

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