Jose Luis Magana, AP
The U.S. Capitol is seen during a sunrise in Washington, Wednesday Feb. 27, 2019.

Washington has started the annual work of preparing a budget — a blueprint for our priorities on how we will fund the government the next fiscal year. As a public servant who takes great care when it comes to spending other peoples’ money, I testified at a recent Budget Committee hearing with an urgent plea: begin to reduce the sea of red ink that drowns essential priorities.

As a mayor who had to balance a budget every year in bipartisan fashion, I was then, as I am now, accountable to taxpayers for every dollar spent. We must be frugal with hard-earned tax dollars. I was endorsed by, and I belong to, the Blue Dog Coalition — a group of 27 sensible members of Congress with a legacy of producing policy that addresses our debt and deficits.

America’s $22 trillion debt is a bipartisan problem. The Treasury Department just reported that the annual budget deficit — for the first four months of fiscal year 2019 — grew to $310 billion. The government is projected to spend $383 billion on interest payments for its debt this year. Both parties are responsible for getting us into this mess. Democrats and Republicans have acted in a way that suggests debt doesn’t matter. The enormity of the debt can be hard to comprehend. Presently, every man, woman and child in America owes $67,000 — enough to send a child to college or start a small business or make a substantial down payment on a home. Any Utah small business would be out of business if that is how it maintained its books.

The first rule when you find yourself in a deep hole is to stop digging. That’s why it was critical in my first votes in the House that we kept pay-as-you-go requirements. Every Utah family understands that when you decide to make a purchase, you must first figure out how to pay for it. As a mayor, I constantly faced tradeoffs. But you set your priorities and you make choices — sometimes difficult choices. It’s what -working Utah families do every day when they sit at the kitchen table and balance their checkbooks. Congress should do the same.

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As a co-chair of the Blue Dog Task Force on Fiscal Responsibility and Government Reform, I’ll be working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pursue smart, strategic policies to rein in the federal government’s persistent annual deficits and unsustainable debt. We will put forward policies that increase transparency and hold Congress accountable to taxpayers. I support “No Budget, No Pay” legislation, a simple measure that says if we don’t get a budget and fund government operations by the start of the next fiscal year, we haven’t done our jobs and should not get paid. I will also introduce a Balanced Budget Amendment to put structure in place to enforce fiscal discipline.

National headlines say that no one in either political party is talking about the debt. We must have that conversation and work until we find solutions to the harm caused by the debt. It is clear we are on a dangerous and unsustainable course. The decisions won’t be easy, but our children and our grandchildren are counting on us to make this right.

Both parties must work to lower our country’s dangerous debt burden.