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Curbing Excessive Spending Little by Little

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Washington, September 14, 2017 | comments

Washington, D.C. – Fiscal responsibility. Politicians talk about it frequently, but it seems like none are willing to take action to make it a reality. When it comes down to it, these two little words are all about identifying government waste and eliminating it, which is exactly what my colleague, Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, and I are doing. Last week, the two of us introduced companion legislation in both the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, called the Presidential Allowance Modernization Act, which would update how taxpayers provide for former presidents and, in the process, save us millions.

But first, a little history...The Former Presidents Act of 1958 became law in response to the dire financial straits that President Harry Truman found himself in after leaving the White House. Deciding that it was important for former presidents to lead a dignified life, Congress created a presidential pension. In recent years, however, the lifestyle of former presidents has dramatically changed, offering them many lucrative opportunities, including high-dollar speaking engagements, book deals, board memberships, and more. For example, between 2001 and 2013, President Bill Clinton earned more than $100 million in speaking fees alone. That’s more than most of us would expect to earn in a lifetime, yet American taxpayers continue to dole out a yearly pension, while also paying for his office space, supplies, staff salaries, and travel.

By identifying outdated measures and prioritizing principles of accountability, the Presidential Allowance Modernization Act creates a market-based plan to save taxpayer dollars. We will achieve this goal by establishing three primary changes to spending. Our bipartisan bill would (1) set a former president’s annual pension at $200,000, (2) adjust the pension of surviving spouses to $100,000, and (3) cap annual costs for expenses such as office space and leases, furniture and supplies, as well as staff salaries to a lump sum of $500,000. After the first five years, that figure would drop to $350,000, and it would fall to $250,000 in subsequent years. Most importantly, it reduces that allowance dollar-for-dollar for any earned income over $400,000.

This measure would apply equally to all former presidents, regardless of party affiliation, and would gradually phase in these new regulations to avoid blindsiding them and their offices. Furthermore, it would not affect the security and protection for former presidents and their families – something that is crucial to maintain.

I’m pleased that my bill passed through the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, of which I am a member, with overwhelming bipartisan support. It’s clear that updating this out-of-date law is in the best interest of American taxpayers, and I am extremely glad to be spearheading this effort in Washington, D.C. Learn more about my efforts here.

First featured on Monday, September 18th in the Walton Tribune.

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