Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

January 28, 2014

Consolidated Appropriations Act a step in right direction

By U.S. Rep. Luke Messer
Guest Columnist

---- — If I’ve learned anything over the last year, it’s that most bills passed through Congress are the imperfect result of an imperfect process.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 3547) is a perfect example of this concept. It’s not the bill I would have written, nor do all the spending priorities align with my own. However, the passage of this bill to fund the government is still a victory for those of us who think Washington spends too much.

For the first time in five years America is on a disciplined spending plan. The passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act reduces overall discretionary spending by $21 billion dollars below last year’s level and cuts spending for the fourth year in a row—something that hasn’t happened since the Korean War. This bill allowed us to avoid a government shutdown and fund important government programs and services on which many Hoosiers rely.

It also replaces arbitrary sequester cuts with smarter, more targeted ones. Many of these funding changes directly respond to the concerns of many of my constituents. I’ve had multiple talks with folks in Columbus who were concerned about the way the sequester cuts would affect their airport’s air traffic control tower. This bill restores those funds, saves jobs and makes flying in and out safer and more efficient.

Dozens of people have contacted my office worried about the adjustment to the cost of living or “COLA” benefits for veterans included in the Bipartisan Budget Act. This bill restores the full COLA benefits for medically-retired service members and survivor benefit recipients.

For the hundreds of Hoosiers concerned about their privacy, this spending bill includes a provision to protect them from overzealous government surveillance. It prohibits the National Security Agency (NSA) from using funds to target American citizens during its surveillance of foreign communications and prevents the agency from acquiring, monitoring or storing electronic communications of U.S. citizens when obtaining business records from American service providers.

For residents in Dearborn, Henry and surrounding counties who told me they were worried about an impending spike in flood insurance premiums, this bill delays that increase for some. Hopefully, we can use the next year to make sure FEMA’s flood maps accurately reflect risk and ensure flood insurance changes are implemented fairly for all.

I came to Washington to help get this country’s fiscal house in order. It is important to control spending, sensibly. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 is a step in that direction and keeps us on the path to fiscal responsibility. The next step is to focus on our nation’s most serious fiscal challenge: strengthening entitlement programs for current beneficiaries and future retirees without busting the budget and burdening our children and grandchildren with insurmountable debt.