Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla., says he has “saved” taxpayers $2 million over the past five years by not spending all of his office budget.
Webster says he returned $384,256.64 unused last month in his latest penny-pinching. He adds that Congress could reap $1.5 billion in savings over five years if every member followed his example.
“There are plenty of places to save, and together they add up to a lot,” Webster told The Daily Signal.
Taxpayers may well admire the Florida Republican’s frugality, but Capitol Hill veterans argue that unused office funds aren’t actually saved because they go back into a pool to be used in the next year’s appropriations bill.
Congress would have to change this practice to achieve real savings, they say.
Webster told The Daily Signal he initiated his savings plan because he noticed Washington operates by a flawed principle—if it is budgeted for you, you should spend it.
“That’s not right,” he said. “In that kind of system, you have no incentive to save. So I had to see what I could do.”
His plan was simple: Stop paying for things that cost too much.
When Webster first arrived in Congress, he was asked to select a vendor to fix his office computers. The problem? They all cost over $1,000 per month. So he got creative:
When I saw that, I didn’t select any vendors. Instead, I bought two new computers for $300 apiece, each with a three-year warranty. That way, I never needed to fix my computers. If anyone had problems, I had extra computers for them to use.
He estimates that this change alone saved his office $32,000 over a two-year term.
Webster doesn’t intend to keep his savings plan to himself. He has encouraged Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., chairman of the Committee on House Administration, to include a “none of the above” box on the list of vendors “so that new members realize they have a choice.”
“I told [Congress] we need to clean our own house up first,” Webster said. “We need to live up to the name we are trying to build.”
Webster has sponsored two bills outlining plans to incentivize congressional and judicial operating efficiency.
“If each member of the House and Senate saved this much, then the House and Senate alone could save $1.5 billion in five years,” he said. “Ultimately, saving is just the right thing to do.”
This report has been corrected to specify that unused congressional office funds do not go back to the U.S. Treasury but rather are rolled forward.