Remarks on the Federal Budget

February 4, 2021

Mr. President, the federal government has become too big and too expensive. It's been this way for quite a long time. It's not without its impact.

You know, it's been borrowing and spending far too much money and doing too many things even before the covid-19 global pandemic. This emergency has really shown how badly we need to return to some semblance of federalism; some semblance of federal restraint with respect to what it does and particularly what it spends.

I say this because emergencies, national emergencies, will arise from time to time. It happens. And when those things happen from time to time, the federal government will need to expend significant resources and borrow money.

That's exactly why we should not be running multitrillion dollar deficits at the top of the business cycle to begin with. During a period of significant economic expansion, not a recession, we were already spending more than what we have. It makes it much harder for us to respond and be nimble to do the things we need to do.

This has been a long-term problem because Washington, D.C. has been centralizing political power and political decision-making now for generations. It has not made the federal government more effective, but rather weaker and less effective. It's made it slower, less nimble, more rigid. And inflexible.

We need to start turning policy the other direction, localizing more decisions to all Americans – in red states and in blue states alike – so that all Americans, regardless of where they live, can live under policies that they are more likely to agree with. That's the beauty of federalism. It allows more Americans to have access to more of the kind of government they want, and less of the kind of government they don't want.

That is the goal of the budget resolution amendments that I will be introducing this week. I will be introducing a number of amendments and I will cite a few examples here.

First, I'm going to propose an amendment to ensure that Congress' voice and the voices of our state governments are heard in the designation of national monuments.

Utah has been home to two significant, massive national monument designations over the last 25 years. One thing they both had in common: they were made contrary to the express will of local and statewide elected officials and Utah's congressional delegation at the time they were made.

These two monument designations in and of themselves are larger than two Delaware’s. Yet they were made without any input from Congress and without any input from the host state's legislature. The Antiquities Act currently allows this to happen. My amendment would propose that we allow people's representatives in Congress and in the affected state legislature to have input.

I will also be filing an amendment to ensure full funding for a program known as PILT.

Now, PILT is an acronym. It stands for “Payment in Lieu of Taxes.” It's something very important to public land states like mine.

You see, the federal government doesn't pay property tax on land that it owns. In a state like mine where the federal government owns most of the land – two-thirds of it, in fact – it could be very difficult for many of our communities to survive; because without that property tax revenue, they find it difficult to fund everything from schools to search and rescue operations, police and fire services, and so forth.

The federal government makes up for some of this through this payment program that is supposed to in some ways replicate the property taxes that the taxing authority would otherwise receive, Payment in Lieu of Taxes. The problem is, they haven't accurately assessed the value of the land. My amendment would call for a more accurate assessment of the land so that these taxing jurisdictions can get what they need.

I will also be proposing a significant amendment to increase access of the American people to health savings account systems.

HSAs, or health savings accounts, do nothing to undermine the efficacy or the prominence of government-run health care systems. They do, however, do a lot of good for those who have them.

They simply add a private option for American families who would like to make some of their own decisions about how they would like to spend their health care dollars. If they would like to spend more on nutritional supplements, they should be able to do that. If they would like to spend more on preventative care, they should be able to do that. HSAs give them the answer.
One of my amendments would expand their opportunities.

I will be offering an amendment to streamline the regulations under the environmental law known as NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act. NEPA has achieved significant environmental gains in this country, but it needs to be updated and modernized so as to make it easier for us to complete infrastructure and construction projects which have become too slow and too expensive.

I've got a number of other amendments, including one that would increase the child tax credit significantly in order to further diminish a little-known but pernicious aspect of our federal tax codes known as the parent tax penalty.

I will be introducing another amendment to increase the recognition and the credit that Americans receive for making charitable contributions, especially important during a global pandemic like this one.

Another amendment – protecting Americans' second amendment rights; one protecting religious freedom; one dealing with gasoline tax, which I don't think should be increased, especially during difficult times like these, and especially given the regressive nature of the fuel tax.

I've got another amendment dealing with some legislation I've developed called the Promise Act. This would help to make sure that interactive online providers – and including, but not limited to, social media platforms – make clear what their standards are; what they will be doing to moderate speech on their platforms, for example; how they will be enforced; and give them incentive, with possible penalties under law, if they deceive their customers about what their policies are and how they will be enforced.

The bottom line here is the federal government's size has not been making it stronger or more nimble or more effective. Its size and its bureaucracy have undermined its work – from our COVID response; to our entitlement crisis; to our dysfunctional welfare system, that while intended to alleviate poverty and make it rare, have instead sometimes made it longer lasting.

Reform doesn't mean just doing the same exact things but spending a little bit less. It means modernizing and streamlining processes; devolving, where appropriate, certain government functions to state and local governments that are closer and more accountable to people.

The way we serve the American people is not just by letting bureaucrats and politicians make decisions for them thousands of miles away in Washington, D.C.

The way we achieve true, effective government and fair government is by giving all Americans – up and down the income scale and across the political spectrum – the power to make their own decisions, and to make them as locally as possible.

Thank you, Mr. President.