Iowa’s junior senator says she is working to spread the word on legislation to reduce wasteful government spending and rein in agencies’ last-minute spending practices.
“We saw this in our own county departments where at the end of the year, that last couple months of the year, they will spend everything they’ve got remaining in their budget whether they need things or not,” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, told reporters gathered in her office Wednesday, speaking of her time as Montgomery County auditor. “They just are afraid if we don’t use it [we’ll] lose it.”
“Well, [if] you don’t really need those items, then you probably shouldn’t be purchasing that,” Ernst said.
Ernst said she sees a similar waste dynamic on the federal level, and wants to put a focus on wasteful end-of-the-year spending as fiscal year 2019 ends Sept. 30 for the U.S. government.
“You know, I was a county auditor for a very small rural county in Iowa, and I saw the waste at that local level and [was] trying to curb some of those spending habits,” she said of Iowa’s Montgomery County. “But now at the federal level, we’re talking billions of dollars all combined for all the agencies, with the waste that exists out there.”
Ernst, vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, said she has proposed several bills to address the problem.
One bill would curb how much an agency could spend in the last two months of the fiscal year to no more than what the agency usually spends each month on average during the rest of the year.
Agencies tend to go on spending sprees at the close of the fiscal year, spending any remaining money in what is known as “use it or lose it.”
Ernst said one agency she is targeting for reform is the Department of Defense.
“I love the DOD, but there’s a lot of waste there,” Ernst said. “They spend money on lobster tails, candy bars, video games—all kinds of stuff that really we didn’t need in the federal government.”
The title of her bill is the End of Year Fiscal Responsibility Act.
In addition to the public, Ernst said, officials within various agencies are calling for action by Congress.
“We have a lot of work going on in this area, and it just seems common sense to me to look at some of these issues. But we just need more traction,” Ernst said.
“We need more people to get on board with some of these cost-saving methods,” she said.