Cynthia Lummis mug

Sen. Cynthia Lummis

Governor Mark Gordon recently announced that Wyoming would end its participation in the federal supplemental unemployment benefits program. He joined governors and leaders in 20 other conservative states in rejecting these benefits as doing more harm than good. What began as a lifeline intended for individuals struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic has turned into a deterrent for some to return to work. These states’ rejection of these supplemental benefits was a smart move for their business communities in desperate need of workers, and it is an important signal to the federal government that if states doesn’t need federal funding, they will not take it.

If only the federal government could be as fiscally conservative. With our national debt sitting at a staggering $28 trillion, one would think that President Joe Biden would be ready to take a hard look at our spending and find ways to reduce it. Instead, he has plans to spend $6 trillion this year alone on progressive priorities like the Green New Deal under the guise of infrastructure and new entitlement spending we simply cannot afford. His proposed tax increases would do more to wreck our economy than pay this tab. Clearly, something must change.

One of the problems that fiscally conservative state leaders face is when Congress allocates money, they must make a tough choice: Either accept grant money their state does not necessarily need — or want — like Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion or extra unemployment benefits; or reject the money and see it go to governors and states who are happy to take these tax dollars for their own residents. Typically, if a red state like Wyoming takes the responsible route, a blue state — like Massachusetts or New York or California — will pocket the allocations.

It shouldn’t be that way.

That’s why I recently introduced the Pay Down the Debt Act, a bill that would prevent any federal grant funds refused by a fiscally responsible state government from going to another state. Instead, my bill would require those funds to go to reduce our national debt.

Now, I am not opposed to every grant. I’m a small government conservative, not anti-government. But I know what happens when your tax dollars get funneled through Washington on the way back to our state for its use. The bureaucracy adds layers of restrictions and requirements on its way back to you.

At the end of the day, even if the federal government won’t take our national debt seriously, we know that average Americans and your state legislators and governors often do. In fact, a recent Gallup poll found 78% of Americans surveyed had some personal worry about the national debt and federal deficit. Only 8% of respondents did not worry about the debt and deficit.

It’s time for Congress to let conservative states do what we seem constitutionally incapable of doing: saying no to taxpayer dollars and instead using it to pay what we already owe. If my bill were to pass, conservative state leaders would know they have the power to say no to federal government waste. Moreover, they would be actively empowered to reduce the American taxpayers’ national debt burden.

Fiscally prudent citizens and elected officials must do all in our power to reverse the direction of our deficit and debt spending. This legislation is a meaningful, real step to start reining in spending and reducing our debt, however small. And for every dollar this legislation saves today, it is one less one that we have to pay back tomorrow.

Cynthia Lummis is the junior senator from Wyoming.

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