Drew's Views: Fleischmann's fine idea, Bradley County puts kids last and Christie's misstep

Drew's Views: Fleischmann's fine idea, Bradley County puts kids last and Christie's misstep

June 7th, 2013 in Opinion Free Press

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

HEADLINE: Rep. Chuck Fleischmann bill targets spending for conferences

THE RECAP: Legislation proposed by U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., that would add oversight and transparency to spending across federal agencies is gaining traction. The Ooltewah Republican's bill would require agency heads -- not their deputies -- to pre-approve many off-site conferences. The legislation would compel each agency to promptly post on its website a summary of each conference and its cost. Finally, agencies would have to submit to Congress a detailed annual report of all conferences, expenses and activities.

DREW'S VIEW: For far too long, federal bureaucrats have frittered away inappropriate sums of tax dollars to host and attend lavish conferences at luxurious retreats. The General Services Administration's infamous 2010 conference in Las Vegas, in which GSA agents spent $820,000 on such silliness as mind readers, artisanal cheese displays, sushi and a bicycle building exercise in the name of "team building," is among the most well-known examples.

On Tuesday, we learned that when the IRS isn't busy targeting conservatives the agency is blowing millions on conferences. Specifically, the IRS spent $50 million on 225 conferences between 2010 and 2012. At one $4.1 million Southern California meeting, some IRS bureaucrats bedded down in $3,500 per-night suites, according to an inspector general's report.

Thankfully, Rep. Fleischmann understands what many taxpayers have long-realized: It's high time for Congress to install measures to hold agencies accountable and prevent wasteful and careless spending of our dollars on conferences.

As a result of the negative reaction surrounding the IRS's indefensible spending on conferences, Fleischmann's reasonable approach to reducing conference expenditures by increasing transparency and oversight is gaining steam and seems likely to pass. It's just too bad that we can't trust agencies to be more respectful of our hard-earned money without these types of measures.

In reality, though, bureaucrats don't care how much conferences cost. After all, they're not using their money. They're using yours.

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HEADLINE: Bradley County, Tenn., property tax hike vote postponed

THE RECAP: A Bradley County Commission vote to increase property taxes to fund $14 million in proposed renovations at Lake Forest Middle School has been postponed and will be addressed during the commission's June 17 meeting. The proposed makeover of Lake Forest Middle School has been listed as a top priority by county education officials for a number of years.

DREW'S VIEW: By stating that a tax increase is needed to fund a vital education expense, supporters of the tax hike on the Bradley County Commission are admitting that education funding is actually their lowest priority. Otherwise, commissioners would prioritize the county's budget and cut less important expenditures -- anything from new office furniture to economic development incentives -- so that students' needs are met. Instead, the tax increase supporters let us all know that, to them, Bradley County's kids come last.

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HEADLINE: Gov. Chris Christie sets October election to fill Sen. Lautenberg seat

THE RECAP: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie decided on Tuesday to set an October special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat made vacant by Frank Lautenberg's death. While the decision gets voters the quickest possible say on who will represent them in Washington, it means the state will have two statewide elections three weeks apart. The special election is projected to cost New Jersey taxpayers $12 million.

DREW'S VIEW: Just when Gov. Christie was beginning to build a strong foundation for his presumed 2016 presidential bid by winning the hearts of some conservatives, he managed to prove once and for all that he simply isn't a responsible, reliable leader.

Many pundits argue that Christie believed that calling a special election in October to fill the senate seat vacated by Frank Lautenberg's death, rather than simply putting the Senate race on the state's November ballot when the governor is up for re-election, gave him an easier chance at victory. News flash, Gov. Christie: You would've won anyway. So you just wasted $12 million in tax money because you're a big, fat chicken -- granted, not as big and fat as you were a few months ago.

Playing politics with tax dollars won't go over well in New Jersey, and it definitely won't be popular with GOP primary voters in places like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina in a few years.

By wilting under pressure and choosing to serve his interests, rather than the best interest of New Jersey, we can only assume that's how Christie would behave as president.

"Drew's views" is a weekly roundup of Free Press opinions about topics that appeared recently in the Times Free Press. Follow Drew Johnson on Twitter: @Drews_Views.