Why is it so tough to pass a budget?

Why is it so tough to pass a budget?

This story just came through on my news alerts, and while this doesn’t relate directly to Nebraska politics, truth be told, any action or inaction by the federal government has implications for both the state government, and Nebraska taxpayers.

When I was in the Legislature–maybe in the first year–one of the more experienced legislators got quite the chuckle out of the big crowd of new senators who were getting worked up because it seemed like we weren’t getting much of anything done on other bills leading up to the budget debate.  That senator said (paraphrasing): “You know, the only constitutional responsibility the Legislature is mandated to do is to pass a balanced budget. Everything else we do is icing on the cake.” That put our responsibilities in perspective.

I realize that the federal budget is different than the state budget (in no small measure because Nebraska–and most states–are required to pass balanced budgets, whereas the federal government can’t even be bothered with considering that). But it seems to me that allowing the federal government to continue to spend money without a budget is like handing your 12-year-old a debit card at the mall, having it hooked up to overdraft protection through your bank account, and saying “go get what you need, but don’t go overboard.”

The problem with that scenario, of course, is that most 12-year-olds, without specific direction about what they can and can’t buy, and a hard dollar amount beyond which they can’t spend anything, will have trouble prioritizing what they NEED and what they WANT, and so will just keep spending.

Just like when the 12-year-old is enabled by having your checking account preventing a hard stop, so is the federal government. In both instances, the spenders are not the ones who earned the money, and in many cases, they will get very little out of the expenditure.

To draw this back to Nebraska, though, kudos to Senators Sasse and Fischer for voting NAY on the continued spending deal that would allow us to go until December 20 without a federal budget.

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