SALT LAKE CITY — Trumpeting what has become a familiar theme this year, Congressman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told state lawmakers the federal government is out of control.
Utah's freshman representative stopped by the state Legislature on Monday to deliver an update on his work in the nation's capitol and rail against federal spending and government bureaucracy.
While serving in Washington, D.C., still sends a "chill down (his) spine," Chaffetz said he worries about a lack of "fiscal discipline" among federal lawmakers.
"I am seriously concerned about the future of our nation and our inability to say 'no,'" he said. "We need to get the federal government out of our way and also get federal spending under control."
As current health care reform falters in Washington, Chaffetz said he credits President Barack Obama with tackling a tough issue, but Congress should focus on the "things we agree on" before working on divisive issues such as health care.
Democrats "blew by people and didn't create something that was truly bipartisan," leading to a stalemate, he said.
Beyond health care, a glut of overpaid federal employees is draining tax dollars, he said.
"The retention rate is 70 percent higher in the federal government than the private sector, which indicates to me we're paying them too much because they don't want to leave," he said. Ultimately, he said, while jobs are the key to economic growth, they should be provided by private businesses.
Popping off a stream of statistics, Chaffetz said increases in the national debt ceiling over the past four years have added more than $1 trillion to the country's outstanding obligations, which are currently accruing interest at the rate of $660 million a day.
"I'm concerned about the viability of our nation and our inability to get this spending under control," he said.
Chaffetz outlined projects that he see as a priority in Utah, including the construction of a National Security Agency facility, a bill that would auction off unused federal land and a plan to compensate landowners for damage caused by federally managed wildfires.
The congressman also spoke out in support of state-based wolf management plans, a version of which is making its way through the Legislature.
To listen to Chaffetz's speech, go to le.utah.gov/asp/audio/index.asp?Sess=2010GS&Day=15&Bill=&House=S
Contributing: Art Raymond