December 07, 2011

The Taxpayers Right to Know Act Introduced in Both Chambers of Congress Today

Washington, DC -- Every federal agency would be required to provide taxpayers an annual report card for each of its programs by a bipartisan bill introduced in both chambers of Congress today.  Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK)and lead sponsor in the House or Representatives, Congressman James Lankford (R-OK), introduced the Taxpayers Right to Know Act. Specifically, this bill would require each government program to be identified and described, provide the total administrative costs of the program, expenditures for services, number of beneficiaries who receive assistance from the program, and an estimate of the number of staff who administers the program; including contractor staff.

The Government Accountability Office released a report earlier this year that found "overlap and fragmentation among government programs or activities can be harbingers of unnecessary duplication.  Reducing or eliminating duplication, overlap, or fragmentation could potentially save billions of taxpayer dollars annually and help agencies provide more efficient and effective services."

This bill would address this overlap and unnecessary duplication by also requiring the following: a listing of other programs within the federal government with duplicative or overlapping missions and services; the latest performance reviews for the program, including the metrics used to review the program; the latest improper payment rate for the program, including fraudulent payments; and the total amount of unspent and unobligated program funds held by the agency and grant recipients. This information would be updated annually and posted on-line, along with recommendations from the agency to consolidate duplicative and overlapping programs, eliminate waste and inefficiency, and terminate lower priority, outdated and unnecessary programs.

Lead sponsors: Senator Coburn (R-OK) and Congressman James Lankford (R-OK). Original co-sponsors: Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Jim DeMint (R-SC), Mark Begich (D-AK), John McCain (R-AZ), Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Daniel Coats (R-IN), Michael Enzi (R-WY), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Dean Heller (R-NV), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Richard Burr (R-NC).

Additional co-sponsors include: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Senators John Thune (R-SD), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mike Lee (R-R-UT), John Boozman (R-AR), John Hoeven (R-ND), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Cornyn (R-TX), David Vitter (R-LA), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Pat Toomey (R-PA), James Risch (R-ID), Roger Wicker (R-MS), James Inhofe (R-OK), John Barrasso (R-WY), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA).

"Earlier this year GAO gave Congress a wake-up call - a report showing massive duplication throughout the federal government. At a minimum, we could be saving $100 billion every year by consolidating programs and eliminating existing duplication," said Senator Coburn. "A major reason we see so much duplication and waste is the left hand literally does not know what the right hand is doing.  Across the government, with few exceptions, agencies have no idea of how many programs they administer.  I know because I have asked.  This bill will force agencies to provide to Congress and the American people basic information about each program so taxpayers and their representatives can set common sense priorities."

"Earlier this year, GAO released a very revealing report which highlighted the waste and duplication that run rampant throughout the corridors of our endless bureaucratic structure.  As taxpaying Americans, we have a right to know where, when, why, how, and on what our government spends our hard-earned dollars.  The Taxpayers Right to Know Act will provide the American people with a high-powered magnifying glass on administrative costs and expenses, which ultimately siphon away funds from the very people they are designed to serve," said Congressman Lankford. "Access to this vital information will allow us to make each federal program more effective and efficient by streamlining duplicative, outdated, and unnecessary programs while simultaneously improving services and outcomes. Taxpayers deserve the maximum level of accountability for the money they send to Washington each year.  This bill demonstrates to the American people that some of us in Congress are actually serious about protecting taxpayer dollars from the waste and duplication inherent in government."

"The level of duplication in government programs, from transportation to defense, shows the federal government is spending billions of dollars without coordinating on the spending," Senator Crapo said. "The GAO report released earlier this year made the case for how we can cut spending and not reduce services, and this bill is the first step to proactively implement the findings of that report.  With U.S. debt exceeding $15 trillion, we need to consolidate and streamline programs to ensure cost-effectiveness and efficiency, and no agency should be immune."

"It is unacceptable that Washington continues to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on wasteful and duplicative programs," said Senator Ayotte, a member of the Senate Budget Committee.  "This common sense measure would encourage performance-based reviews of federal programs and aid in eliminating duplicative and underperforming programs, providing increased accountability and making the federal government more efficient."

"Taxpayers have a right to know where every penny of their money is being spent," Senator Begich said. "At this time of a staggering national deficit and debt, we need to increase transparency and accountability for how federal dollars are spent and this helps moves us down that path."

"Utahns are sick and tired of seeing their money being sent into federal agency black holes," Senator Hatch said. "Taxpayers deserve to know where their tax dollars are going and what their hard-earned money is paying for. This bipartisan bill is a commonsense way to give the American people more accountability of their government."

"The American people deserve to know where their hard-earned money goes when they send it to Washington," Senator Burr said.  "With all the waste and abuse that occurs at the federal level, it is no wonder the American people don't trust Washington with their tax dollars.  We must increase accountability in government spending, and this bill will take a big step towards accomplishing that."

"As we consider how to address our nation's fiscal crisis, everything must be on the table," said Senator Coats. "Shedding light on wasteful and duplicative programs is a way to identify how taxpayer dollars can be saved. We need to determine what is essential, what can be pared down and what needs to be eliminated."

"The American people have a right to know how their tax dollars are being spent. This legislation will enforce a practice that Congress should have been doing all along.  Improved transparency and accountability will help rein in government spending, reduce duplicative programs, and remove waste in the federal government," said Senator Heller.

"If Congress is ever going to balance the budget and repay our $15 trillion debt, we have to know where tax dollars are actually being spent," said Senator Enzi. "This bill would give us the tools to ensure that we cut spending with our eyes open."

"This bill is an important step in addressing and eliminating overlap and redundancy in the federal government," said Senator Collins.  "Our legislation would provide Congress and the American people with better information about what federal programs do, how many might be trying to solve the same problems, and how much they cost.  Americans pay the freight for our government.  They should be able to check the internet and decide which projects are worth the money and which are not."