Ahead of Sunshine Week, an annual tradition promoting the importance of government transparency, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), who champions the need to curb government waste and make Washington ‘squeal’, continued to push her efforts to protect hardworking Iowans’ tax dollars. Ernst highlighted a few of her ‘bright ideas’—like her Billion Dollar Boondoggle Act, which requires full public disclosure of the cost and timeline of mammoth government-funded projects costing billions more than promised and behind schedule, and her SWAG Act, to prohibit tax dollars from being spent on mascots and swag to promote government agencies and programs.
Senator Ernst’s full speech is below:
“With spring approaching, the days are getting longer and temperatures are warming up.
“Many are hitting the gym, trying to get that summer bod before heading to the beach—including some turtles…
“That’s right, your tax dollars actually paid for a study that put turtles on treadmills.
“So here we have our turtles on a treadmill.
“To no one’s surprise, it turns out that turtles are really, really slow. Ok? That’s what our tax dollars went to.
“In fact, this wasteful study found that turtles moved at nearly the same pace as dead turtles on a treadmill.
“Aren’t you glad that Washington bureaucrats used your hard-earned dollars to conduct this study? Good grief, folks.
“Now, how many of your tax dollars went to this study exactly?
“Well folks, your guess is actually as good as mine, because there is no legal obligation for most federal agencies to publicly disclose the price of government projects, even though the American taxpayers are paying for them.
“Folks, this is your money. Your money. So shouldn’t you have a right to know how it is being spent?
“It’s been said before, and I sure believe it: ‘Government functions best when it operates in the open.’
“This is the basis of Sunshine Week, which begins this Sunday.
“Sunshine Week is celebrated every year in March to remind us of just how important it is to have government transparency…especially when it comes to how our tax dollars are being spent.
“Transparency really is fundamental to the principles upon which our nation was founded.
“The people have power to affect the decisions made by those of us who are elected leaders, and in turn, Congress has the authority to hold accountable the millions of unelected, Washington bureaucrats who ultimately write the rules and regulations that impact nearly every aspect of our lives and decide how our taxpayer dollars are spent.
“This year, I have a couple ‘bright ideas’ to shine some light on how Washington is spending your money.
“Let’s talk about those darn government boondoggles…those federal projects that are billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule.
“Frankly, we know nothing about them because the government agencies aren’t required to report this information to you.
“Well, I have a bill to help shed some light on these costly monstrosities.
“My Billion Dollar Boondoggle Act would require an annual report listing every single taxpayer-funded project that is $1 billion or more over budget or five years or more behind schedule.
“This will make it impossible for Washington bureaucrats to continue throwing our tax dollars into bottomless money pits without being noticed.
“Unfortunately, it’s not just the billions wasted on boondoggles being kept secret. It’s the cost of the federal projects.
“So I’ve proposed a bill that requires every project supported with federal funds to include a price tag with the amount that is paid by taxpayers.
“That way, when your money is being spent to put turtles on a treadmill – the ones I mentioned earlier – you, the taxpayer, can decide if the price is right.
“Of course, the waste doesn’t stop there. Did you know that federal agencies spend over $1.4 billion every year on advertising and public relations?
“This includes, you’ll love this, more than a quarter-of-a-million dollars for costumed mascots, like Sammy Soil and Milkshake the Cow…a quarter-of-a-million dollars.
“Nearly $10,000 to produce a Zombie apocalypse survival guide…yes, folks, I am not joking.
“And $30,000 for Martian New Year’s Eve party.
“And hundreds of thousands of dollars on tote bags, stress balls, fidget spinners, and other trinkets.
“Well folks, thankfully, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is voting TODAY on my bill that forces agencies to disclose exactly how much they are spending on all of these government gimmicks.
“Folks, it’s time we bag the swag and end this unnecessary taxpayer-funded propaganda.
“With our national debt now exceeding $23 trillion, there’s literally no better time than Sunshine Week to start shedding more light on how Washington is managing—or maybe in this case, mismanaging—your money.
“The only reason to keep taxpayers in the dark is because these spending decisions can’t withstand the scrutiny.
“And folks, that is exactly why sunlight is the best disinfectant.”