jump to navigation

Politico Guest Editorial: Reduce out-of-control spending; Rep. Upton calls for freeze to weatherization, EnergyStar November 15, 2010

Posted by Laura Arnold in Energy Efficient Buildings, Federal energy legislation, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , ,
trackback
ENERGY POLICY:Upton calls for freeze to weatherization, EnergyStar (11/15/2010)Katherine Ling, E&E reporter

The leading candidate to become chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee today boosted his conservative credentials, laying out a plan to cut federal government spending levels including freezing programs that support energy efficiency retrofits in homes and efficiency labeling for appliances.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) wants to seize unspent stimulus funds and change committee rules to require all committee legislation be offset by cuts to programs within the committee’s jurisdiction, he wrote today in an opinion editorial in Politico. Grover Norquist, president of the conservative group Americans for Tax Reform, co-authored the piece.

Upton also wants to go “line by line” through the budget to identify potential cuts, according to the op-ed. The piece singles out the Energy Department’s weatherization program — which provides funding to states to help low-income families reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient — and DOE and U.S. EPA’s energy efficiency labeling program “EnergyStar” as two programs that need to be re-examined or cut.

“From fraud in the EnergyStar program to ridiculous delays in the implementation of the $5-billion stimulus weatherization program, programs not working as intended must be frozen until we can determine how to fix them,” Upton wrote. “Or whether they should simply be discontinued and return the taxpayers their money.”

DOE has recently cracked down on several EnergyStar-labeled products, including lamps, air conditioners and freezers, that have failed to meet EnergyStar efficiency levels in audits. DOE issued the first consent decree and a fine of $150,000 to Haier America last January for EnergyStar violations on some of its freezers (E&ENews PM, Jan. 7).

The weatherization program has come under scrutiny this year after Congress provided $5 billion in the stimulus for the program but DOE encountered serious delays in getting the money to actual projects in states because of federal requirements regarding wages, “Buy America,” and historic preservation (E&ENews PM, Feb. 23). The Illinois weatherization program has also specifically been criticized by DOE’s inspector general for “substandard” workmanship, inflated material costs and inadequate inspections (Greenwire, Oct. 19).

As of August the program had weatherized 341,326 homes compared to 30,297 homes near the beginning of the year, according to a DOE report. DOE expects to retrofit 586,015 homes by the end of 2011.

Upton is the ranking member of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee on the Energy and Commerce Committee and is seeking to be chairman of the committee when the House reconvenes next session under a Republican majority. Reps. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and John Shimkus (R-Ill.) are also seeking the chairmanship. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) is currently ranking member of the full committee but is term-limited under GOP rules, although he is seeking a waiver so he can take the top spot in the new Congress (Greenwire, Nov. 11).

Upton is considered the most politically moderate of the quartet, so his decision to pen a piece with Norquist has political significance. Conservative GOPers have voiced concern about Upton’s “moderate” record, and Barton has highlighted it in public statements, which he compares to his “consistent conservative commitment” (E&ENews PM, Nov. 10).

Upton said in the piece that the committee can no longer afford to “pass the buck to the appropriators.” He called for all offsets to be made from spending programs, not “tax increases,” and for cuts to be 10 percent higher than the projected costs for the legislation.

“If we cut 10 percent more than is necessary, we could have an added safeguard,” Upton wrote. “And if the [Congressional Budget Office] estimate is accurate, the result will be a reduction in federal spending. It is a win-win situation that is likely to have immediate results.”

Reduce out-of-control spending now
By: Grover G. Norquist and Rep. Fred Upton
November 15, 2010 04:31 AM EST
The federal budget deficits reported in 2009 and 2010 were the highest on record since 1945, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, approximately $1.4 trillion and $1.3 trillion, respectively. (That’s trillion with a capital T.) Under the Democrats’ one-party reign the last two years, the size of government has exploded and the United States has added an unprecedented $2.7 trillion to the national debt, amounting to nearly $5 billion dollars a day.Meanwhile, again according to the CBO, federal spending has grown from 20.1 percent of gross domestic product in 2006 (the year before Nancy Pelosi became speaker, and slightly below the historical average), to 23.8 percent of GDP (a record but for 2009’s all-time high) on Election Day 2010. Washington clearly has a spending problem — not a tax revenue problem.The American people are fed up and demand that we tackle government spending and the federal budget deficit immediately. The days of the administration printing more money as a solution to meet budget shortfalls are now over.While it is true that the Energy and Commerce Committee is not ground zero for budget work, every committee must play an integral role in cutting spending and reining in the dramatic expanse of government. A first step for every committee must be to repeal the billions of dollars of unspent stimulus funds in their jurisdiction.

We must also stop letting legislation move through the committee process with the opaque, anything goes “such sums as may be necessary” appropriations language. Even when legislators have a specific spending figure in mind, they routinely use this smoke-and-mirrors tactic to get bills through the committee process and evade a difficult debate on spending.

Drafting legislation in such a consequence-free environment allows committees to pass the buck to the appropriators. But we cannot afford to pass the buck on our futures any longer.

It is time we immediately assumed responsibility for our out-of-control spending crisis before the hole gets any deeper and future generations are in greater peril. Under a new House Republican majority, we must swiftly change committee rules to ban this grossly irresponsible practice.

 

To immediately cut spending and the size and scope of government, we must also require that any committee legislation scored by CBO have a net cost to taxpayers directly offset by cuts to programs within that committee’s jurisdiction. Moreover, we must not tolerate any “offsets” from tax increases. 

In the next Congress, at least 235 members will have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Tax hikes are off the table — forcing us all to focus on the actual problem: spending.

By changing committee rules for Energy and Commerce, as well as others, we must also require that legislation go one step further, and cut 10 percent more than the projected costs — to ensure that any new program will actually be covered.

This means that a $1-million program would need a $1.1 million offset. If we cut 10 percent more than is necessary, we could have an added safeguard. And if the CBO estimate is accurate, the result will be a reduction in federal spending. It is a win-win situation that is likely to have immediate results.

Vigorous oversight is also an absolute necessity in the next Congress. Committees must hold budget hearings for every agency within their jurisdiction, and then, as candidate Obama promised, go line-by-line through each budget to identify potential items to cut. A chainsaw would be the recommended tool of choice.

Oversight will also help expose additional government waste. As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.”

From fraud in the EnergyStar program to ridiculous delays in the implementation of the $5-billion stimulus weatherization program, programs not working as intended must be frozen until we can determine how to fix them. Or whether they should simply be discontinued and return the taxpayers their money.

The American people have spoken, and it is the responsibility of the newly elected Republican majority to chart a new course of limited government and less spending. That begins at the committee process — and the deficit must be in the crosshairs.

Grover Norquist is the president of Americans for Tax Reform. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) is the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment.

© 2010 Capitol News Company, LLC
Advertisements

Comments»

No comments yet — be the first.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: