Chaffetz Wants To Relocate Federal Agencies Away From Washington, D.C.

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Luke Rosiak Investigative Reporter
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Four of the five richest counties in the U.S. are Washington, D.C. suburbs — Loudoun, Fairfax and Arlington in Virginia and Howard in Maryland — so it is unsurprising that many Americans question the federal government taking money to prop up far-off elites?

One solution to the federal government being too expensive and out-of-touch is moving parts of it away from Washington, D.C., according to House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz.

The Utah Republican explained that computers and other technologies mean there’s no reason that a federal agency headquarters must be physically located in D.C., instead of areas with much lower living costs.

Housing prices in D.C. are among the highest in the country thanks in great part to the large number of high-paying government jobs putting upward pressure on real estate supply and demand.

Meanwhile, high-speed internet, telecommuting, video conferencing, Amazon home delivery — and soon — virtual reality and self-driving cars, are making it less essential for most workers to be physically tied to any one area, according to Chaffetz.

A Department of Agriculture relocated to Kansas could, for example, pay lower salaries to its employees without lowering their standard of living. They might have a 5,000 square foot house with a pool instead of a studio apartment in D.C., and with less congestion to boot.

And federal regulators would be more likely to see and experience the impact of their actions, much as members of Congress spend time in their home districts and listen to their constituents. In the Department of Agriculture example, officials living and working in Kansas might understand farming better than those in urban Washington, D.C.

The newly-relocated jobs would provide an economic boost in areas that actually need them. Federal taxes would more likely be spent in communities from which they are collected. The D.C. metro area has a median household income of $93,000 and an average commute of 35 minutes, according to the Census Bureau. The median household income in the U.S. is $56,000, and lower in many areas.

“Housing federal agencies in a city with one of the highest median incomes in the United States is not only expensive, but keeps federal bureaucrats in an economic and political bubble that offers a distorted view of the realities facing this country,” Chaffetz said.

Chaffetz introduced his proposal as a legislative resolution rather than a mandate on the executive branch because it expresses “the sense of the House of Representatives that offices attached to the seat of government should not be required to exercise their offices in the District of Columbia.”

President-elect Donald Trump said he wants to reduce federal spending. Compensation is a major expense of any workforce, so Chaffetz’s plan is a way to achieve that goal. The resolution directs agency heads “to recommend appropriate alternate locations throughout the United States to which their respective agency or military department can be relocated.”

Agencies could be relocated to decaying inner-cities and jobs-scarce rural areas.  Republicans could get behind the savings, while lawmakers from both parties could take credit for the resulting economic development that benefits their constituents.

Relocating federal agencies might even make conservative voters more sympathetic to the federal government if they no longer believed their tax dollars were going to elitist liberals in Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C., residents might benefit from more affordable housing as demand decreases.

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