Why the USDA Hastily Spent $144K on Toner Cartridges

Government agencies have to 'use it or lose it' by tomorrow
By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2013 4:27 PM CDT
As Shutdown Looms, Agencies Buy Up Big

Congress is still squabbling over next year's federal budget, but government agencies only have until tomorrow to spend as much of this year's budget as possible before that money disappears. And so they are. Yep, it's "use it or lose it" season in DC, reports the Washington Post, which rounds up some of the crazier expenditures. Like the $562,000 spent on artwork by the Department of Veterans Affairs last week. Or the $144,000 worth of toner cartridges the Agriculture Department bought in a single day.

And then there's the "cubicle furniture rehab" purchased for $178,000 by the Coast Guard, which replaced high-walled cubicles with low-walled cubicles to improve air-flow. It wasn't a high-priority project, says a spokesperson—just one they could get done by tomorrow. "The money was going to be spent anyway," he says. The agencies don't just lose the money they don't spend—they also face having next year's budget slashed if they underspend. "Instead of being praised for not spending all your money, you get cut for not spending all your money," says one congressman. "And so we’ve got a perverse incentive in there" (More budget stories.)

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