If you’ve read one of my Waste Reports, you know how much I hate when government carelessly spends your hard-earned tax dollars.

With a skyrocketing debt surpassing $21 trillion, our leaders have to be more responsible with prioritizing our limited money to address our country’s needs. Why are bridges and roads crumbling here while our government spends money to develop a television show in Afghanistan? How are teaching Rwandan special interest groups to lobby or supporting asset seizure programs in Paraguay more dire priorities than funding our own government?

These aren’t isolated incidents of careless check-signing. In my Festivus Waste Report, I covered over $114 million in wasteful expenditures.

Exposing wasteful spending is just part of my commitment to being a good steward of your money. As your senator, I’ve been a lone, yet determined, voice pushing back against the “Spend, spend, spend! Who cares how we pay for it!” mantra of today’s Washington.

Last week, the Coalition to Reduce Spending, a nonpartisan fiscal watchdog organization, highlighted how much each member of Congress votes to spend each year. And for those already taking cover behind their party talking points to blame the other side, here’s a spoiler: both Republicans and Democrats fared poorly.

According to their report, in the 115th Congress, the average member of Congress in both parties voted to spend approximately $1.58 trillion. That is absurd. We don’t have that kind of money, and we certainly didn’t cut enough to balance our budget and account for those expenditures.

The good news is, this recent session of Congress is the first time that several elected officials actually ended up voting for more spending cuts than increases. I’m proud to be one of only two in the Senate, with my friend Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who actually voted to spend less money than we currently spend.

Fiscal conservatism doesn’t mean just opposing outrageous spending bills. It also means refusing to accept the Washington mindset that government money isn’t real money. As individual citizens, we have to spend within our means and stick to budgets, so why can’t Congress?

Of course, it’s far easier to spend other people’s money. For example, think back to the first time a child received an allowance. Nothing was more important than deciding how to carefully spend that money. He held on to it, waiting for the perfect game or toy worthy of his newfound riches. But imagine if his parents then said he could pick out any toy he wanted for his birthday, with his friends all splitting the cost. Would he ask his friends what they could afford? Or would he pick the best, most expensive toy in the store? It’s not his money, after all. He wouldn’t feel the hole in his pocket.

In this scenario, the child is Congress, who has forgotten the basic principles of responsible money management. The child’s friends are you – the taxpayer – carrying the burden of a recklessly spending government.

While Republicans and Democrats alike have saddled our country with massive debt, unnecessary spending and a far-from-balanced budget, I have worked to do the opposite. Several times, I’ve introduced my plan to balance the federal budget in five years. Last year, I forced the Senate to vote on my Penny Plan, which would have done just that. My plan stated that for every on-budget dollar the federal government spent, it would spend one penny less for the next five years, at which point balance would be reached, with spending growing at 1 percent thereafter – all without making any changes to Social Security.

Here’s the crazy part – even though it would have reduced spending by over $400 billion in the next fiscal year and by $13.35 trillion over 10 years, it still would amount to a 14.6 percent spending¬†increase¬†over 10 years. Only in Washington could a 14.6 percent increase be characterized as a “cut.” Only in Washington could cutting spending by one penny per dollar be such a difficult task.

Despite Congress’ inaction, I’ve remained committed to treating your tax dollars with care. To date, my Senate office has returned over $4 million in unspent funds to the Treasury. Imagine if all elected officials did the same.

Representing Kentucky in Congress is one of my greatest honors. It’d be an abdication of duty and belie all of my deeply held principles if I didn’t stand up for the responsible use of your tax dollars. When I ran for office, I promised to be a true conservative with your money. I’m proud to have kept that promise and will continue my fight to bring fiscal sanity to government.