Rand Paul announced today that his office will return $500,000 of the $3 million allotment he received to fund his official business in 2011 to the US Treasury.
According to Senator Paul, each Senator is given a budget of $3 million to cover the expenses involved in being a Senator. These funds pay his staffers and the people who do constituent services, office supplies and computers, travel, etc. He credited the savings with being frugal with salaries, price shopping, and suggested that other senators consider "other people's money" to be free.
Senator Paul has some inherent advantages to fitting his expenses within the allotment, to be sure. Each Senator gets the same allotment, apparently, but Kentucky is neither geographically large, like many western states, nor as populous as many states. Ranking right in the middle of the pack at 26th in terms of population, it is much easier to provide constituent services to Kentucky's 4 million people than it would be to California's 37 million, Texas' 25 million, New York and Florida's 19 million each, etc. Travel between Kentucky and Washington DC is very reasonable.
That said, the adage known as Parkinson's law, that work expands to fill (at least) the time available for it, is also true for budgets, which was one of Senator Paul's points. He referred to an issue that plagues every organization ever created by man, public and private, namely the perverse incentive to spend "leftover" money so as not to be penalized with a smaller budget in the future. Of course, unlike the civil servants he berates for this, he knew all along that his 2012 budget would not be based on his actual expenses for 2011.
Senator Paul took several unrelated questions after his announcement.
Asked whether he will support Senator Mitch McConnell to be Senate Majority Leader if Republicans take over the Senate in November, he said that he would, and spoke at some length about the positive working relationship he has had with McConnell and the many projects they have collaborated on.
Responding to rumors in the media that Mitt Romney might consider him as a running mate, the Senator said that right now his focus is on a candidate from Texas - that being his father, Congressman Ron Paul.
Asked whether he intends to run for re-election in 2016, he stated that his office has submitted all paperwork as if he will so that people who want to contribute to a run in 2016 should he make one can do so, but said that he has not formally made that decision yet. He also indicated that he liked being "in the mix" and having a role in the national debate, but missed his medical practice and seeing patients.
Finally, when asked as a follow up to infamous remarks he made at some Senate hearings last Spring, whether he ever found a toilet that works, the Senator dodged the question and, instead, talked about light bulbs.
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