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Budget gamesmanship leads to irrational governing

Published October 5, 2013 1:01 am

Governing by crisis is dangerous
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

By Bob McDonnell

Special to The Washington Post

There is a growing, dangerous disconnect in this country between the dysfunction of Washington and the day-to-day reality of states, businesses and families.

In Washington, a crisis is apparently a good thing. Email lists are expanded, fundraising blossoms and everyone gives a big speech. In the states, at work and in our homes, a crisis is a bad thing. In Virginia, we fight hard for our principles but we greatly value compromise, cooperation and results.

There is plenty of blame to go around when it comes to the debacle on the Potomac. The president has failed to constructively engage with Congress since coming to Washington. His hands-off approach has led to a surplus of oratory and a deficit of governing. There has been no presidential or Democratic leadership on reforming our country's budget-breaking entitlement system and restraining our massive debt.

Similarly, House and Senate Republicans knew that the president and the Democratic Senate majority would never agree to defunding the president's main legislative achievement in exchange for passing a routine resolution necessary to keep government running. The ballot box of the future is where the issue should, and will, be decided.

Now, real people pay the price for gamesmanship. Virginia is home to more than 172,000 federal civilian workers. We estimate that roughly one-third of them have been furloughed as a result of the shutdown. That means no paycheck and difficulty planning for the future. For the state, it means reduced income and sales-tax collections, which will hurt our state budget and job growth. The shutdown could also affect Child Care and Development Block Grants, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment block grants, block grants for mental health treatment and community health centers, to name just a few programs.

I believe in a limited government that invests in, and manages wisely, its core responsibilities and leaves the rest to the private sector. A responsible, long-term budget process, like Virginia's, which has led to four straight budget surpluses during our administration, is how such funding decisions are properly and carefully made. Elected officials work together to debate funding priorities and craft a spending blueprint that represents the best consensus on how to utilize limited taxpayer dollars.

Budgets are documents born of many compromises. A government shutdown represents the antithesis of that approach.

Bob McDonnell, a Republican, is governor of Virginia.