The next time you sit down to balance your checkbook, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden hopes you will take a few additional minutes to help Congress with the national budget.

The next time you sit down to balance your checkbook, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden hopes you will take a few additional minutes to help Congress with the national budget.

Not by writing a check to Uncle Sam but by texting or e-mailing the GOP's YouCut program, which allows people to propose programs that Congress should cut, Walden, a Republican from Hood River, explained in a Medford news conference Saturday.

"The Republicans in the House are reaching out to Americans to participate and recommend things they think could begin the process of reducing wasteful spending," said the House Republican Leadership chairman, who represents Oregon's 2nd Congressional District.

"Each week Americans will have the ability to text in and vote on alternatives of what should be cut," he said, adding later, "We want to allow Americans the opportunity to weigh in."

Launched last week by GOP House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., the YouCut initiative — republicanwhip.house.gov/YouCut — offers five projects each week that Americans can vote on to decide whether they should go on the budgetary chopping block. While the projects put to a vote are submitted by the GOP, participants also can suggest their own projects to be eliminated.

But House Democrats aren't too keen on the YouCut program.

When the first vote failed, 177-240, last week, U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., said Republicans were trying to stop the House business.

"First this is not 'American Idol' or 'Dancing With the Stars'," he said on the House floor. "This is America's legislature. For all we know, on YouCut, Osama bin Laden could be voting."

Noting that the national deficit is expected to top $1 trillion by next year, Walden claimed the program isn't a political gimmick but a serious way to empower average Americans.

"We have to change the wasteful and reckless Washington spending and put a stop to it," he said. "This is not fair to this generation. And it is reckless and completely unfair to our children and grandchildren."

Walden was joined by seven GOP state legislators or candidates, including Sen. Ted Ferrioli of John Day, Republican leader in the Oregon Senate, and Rep. Bruce Hanna of Roseburg, the Republican leader in the House. State Reps. Sal Esquivel of Medford and Dennis Richardson of Central Point, as well as Sen. Doug Whitsett of Klamath Falls, were also present.

Those participating in YouCut aren't expected to balance the entire national budget, Walden said.

"That is a monumental task," he said. "But, having been a small-business owner for nearly 22 years, having signed the front of a payroll check and paid the bills, I know every dollar matters.

"So, if we are ever going to get a hold of the big programs, you got to start with the little programs," he added.

To make it easier for the average American to participate, the GOP is breaking it down to five spending projects at a time, he said. Each week the GOP will present the program that gets the most votes to the House and force a vote on whether it should be cut, he added.

"With the tools now available on the Internet, they can dig as deep as they want to with each one," he said. "But each of these are ones that will be voted on in Congress.

"I think it is important to get Americans more engaged in the budget," he said, adding that voters are showing an eagerness to participate more in the process.

The budget situation in Oregon is similar, albeit on a smaller scale, Ferrioli observed.

"There is a tendency to view these alarms that Republicans are raising in a partisan light," he said.

However, he noted that Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat, recently released what he calls a "reset document" to cut back on overspending within the state.

"The conclusion of the report is that we have to do something different," Ferrioli said. "That something different is curbing government spending. That something different is refusing to allow the growth of government in Oregon at the rate we've seen it grow in the last 20 years."

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.