By Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News

U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., part of the GOP congressional leadership in his role as senior deputy majority whip, continues to fight for his “Zero-based Budgeting Ensures Responsible Oversight (ZERO) Act” legislation.

The bill requires federal agencies and departments to "justify and approve" every line item on their budgets each year, rather than make slight changes to the previous year’s budget. The proposal has been a top priority for Ross since he first took his seat in Congress back in 2011. 

Ross introduced the latest incarnation of the bill back in January 2017. 

“With our national debt reaching nearly $20 trillion, we must take all measures possible to eliminate egregious government spending and ensure that hard-earned taxpayer dollars are spent wisely,” Ross said at that time. “That is why I reintroduced my legislation, the ZERO Act. This bill requires agency and department managers to justify every line item on their budgets each year so we can rein in the waste, fraud and abuse of massive government bureaucracies. American families and small businesses across my district and the U.S. know the best way to balance their budgets is to start at zero. Washington needs to follow their lead.”

Ross’s office pointed to both the private and public sectors, insisting zero-based budgeting helped “curb inflation and identify waste.” The proposal would ensure federal departments justify spending to Congress and would make all spending reviewed annually. Ross’s bill would also make federal departments propose three levels of spending, two of which must be below the current level. 

The Central Florida congressman showcased the proposal last week. 

“Since being elected, I have led the charge to implement long-term federal spending controls that create opportunities for economic prosperity and job growth in Florida and across the country,” Ross noted. “I have fought to mandate zero-based budgeting by the federal government. Families and small businesses in Florida start their budget at zero every year. It is time for your federal government to do the same. The ZERO Act will require agencies for the first time to fully and transparently identify waste and justify their budget. 

“As a father, I know we cannot continue to bankrupt our great nation. Our children and grandchildren are counting on us,” Ross added. “I have led by example. In fact, I have returned more than $635,000 to the U.S. Treasury from my office budget since taking office. Providing exceptional constituent service is a top priority, but as I demand good stewardship of taxpayer dollars by the entire federal government, my office works diligently to not waste a penny of taxpayer money. We must demonstrate that federal entities can all do more with less, which is why I make sure to work under budget and return excess money every year.  More can and must be done, however. The federal budget process has been broken for too long, and we must address our increasing federal debt.”   

Praising the “ historic tax reform package” backed by President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans, Ross insisted the federal government had been given a chance to assume more fiscal responsibility. 

“This once in a generation tax reform enacted by House Republicans, working closely with President Trump, also presents us an incredible opportunity to get our fiscal house in order.” Ross maintained. “That is why I have directed my staff to develop legislation that harnesses a portion of the economic growth attributed to tax reform and other pro-growth policies to pay down the debt. This ultimately benefits current and future generations, helping to instill confidence and optimism once again in the American economy.”

In the meantime, Ross’ ZERO Act is not showing much in the way of momentum on Capitol Hill. It has been languishing before the U.S. House Budget Committee for fifteen months and has picked up only one cosponsor--though admittedly a prominent one-- in U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., who has been in the House for almost four decades.