October 28, 1999
Ninth District Congressman cited fiscal discipline and the need to make tough choices in maintaining a balanced budget as the reason for his vote to trim all discretionary spending by 1 percent.
“Fiscal responsibility is not easy,” explained Smith. “This one percent reduction affects programs that are very popular and necessary. However, balancing the budget and being fiscally disciplined is incredibly important to our economic health and people’s trust in government. Congress has to be willing to make the tough choices necessary to be fiscally disciplined.”
Although President Clinton has publicly opposed the 1 percent reduction and all but four House Democrats voted against it, Smith said this was a time for principle to rise above party. “I represent the people of the Ninth District, not the Democratic party,” he said. “Most families and businesses could trim their budgets by one percent for a year, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask the federal government to do the same.”
Smith said in a perfect world, an across-the-board cut at the end of the budget process wouldn’t be necessary. “The House leadership has tried to stick to a flawed budget blueprint that relies on budget gimmicks to give the appearance of fiscal restraint,” Smith said. “I would much rather Congress enact a budget that is honest and evaluates programs on their own merit, so that we eliminate wasteful or unnecessary spending and we don’t have to do an across-the-board cut. Unfortunately, that option wasn’t on the table, so I chose to take a small step forward and support the one percent cut to be more fiscally responsible.”
The budget process is far from over. Several more appropriations bills must be enacted to keep the government running before Congress can adjourn for the year. “The next few weeks are critical,” Smith said. “We’ve got to keep our eye on the ball and remind ourselves how important fiscal restraint is. For the first time in a generation, we had a real, non-Social Security surplus of $1 billion in 1999. If we can maintain fiscal discipline and keep the economy strong, we will have another surplus next year and we can start reducing the federal debt.”