NORFOLK -- The U.S. Capitol is perhaps the most well-known symbol of our freedom and independence.
To light the buildings where Congress meets to lead the nation cost taxpayers more than $51-million last year. That came as a surprise even to freshman Congressman Scott Rigell, who ran on a promise to cut government spending.
"That is a stunning number. Well, we'll look into that," Rigell promised
Critics of the way the government spends your money say Rigell and his new Republican colleagues will need to look at cutting more than just the light bill.
According to the Capital News Connection, in 2000, the House and Senate spent about $3 billion for staff, committees and research. Today that number is $5.5 billion, an increase of more than three times the rate of inflation.
"I think there's too much waste. The government itself is paying itself too much," one frustrated taxpayer said.
Regent University's Chuck Dunn says the new Republican-led Congress needs to take a real hard look at its bottom line, get its house in order before attacking bigger issues.
“And if those folks don't pay off on the commitment, see, they’re going to have a lot to pay for in two years," Dunn predicted.
So far, Congress has made only a largely-symbolic gesture to cut its own spending.
House Speaker John Boehner is proposing Congress trim its budgets but just $35-million, a far cry from the $50-billion in spending the GOP promised.
Rep. Scott Rigell says he's committed to cutting his yearly office budget but only by slightly more than the House leadership is proposing.
"Leadership by example is very important to me," Rigell added.
Rigell said there will be no bottled water in his office, something congressional staffers gulped down to the tune of $200,000 in the first quarter of last year alone.
Congress also spent $3-million of your money last year on yoga and Pilate classes. "I'm stunned by that. It's not going to happen at our office," Rigell vowed.
What else did Congress spend your money on?
-$415,000 for a Senate Chaplain's office.
-$660-million for House member offices,
-$422-million for Senate offices.
-$600-million for a new visitor's center.
Security costs post 9-11 have significantly increased the cost of running Congress. The 5-percent cut in the budgets of members of Congress being proposed by the Speaker would mean about one less person in each congressional office.