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BillTally Report: Congress Still Proposing New Spending

by Michael Tasselmyer / /

As we approach the final weeks of the first session in the 113th Congress, taxpayers have already been faced with a number of major legislative shakeups in Washington, D.C. From automatic sequestration cuts to the rollout of several major provisions of the Affordable Care Act – and a multi-week government shutdown, to boot – there’s been a lot for citizens to consider as they reflect on how their Representatives and Senators have used their tax dollars.

Fortunately, National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) has been keeping tabs on Congressional budget proposals through its BillTally project – the only comprehensive database that tracks every major spending and saving bill introduced on Capitol Hill. In a new Policy Paper, NTUF Director of Research Demian Brady has crunched the BillTally numbers from the first six months of the current session of Congress to offer taxpayers perspective and insight into how the proposals we’ve seen so far measure up to those in previous years.

Among the major findings:

  • In the House, NTUF was able to score 438 bills over the first six months that would affect the budget by $1 million or more. For every bill that would decrease federal outlays, there were 4.41 that would increase them. Over the entirety of the 112th Congress, that ratio was 3.87.
  • In the Senate, NTUF found 230 such bills over that same time, with a ratio of 5.97 spending increase bills to every one savings bill. In the 112th Congress, the Senate’s ratio was 4.6.
  • Excluding overlapping bills, the House proposed a net $1.2 trillion budget increase, already higher than the previous Congress’ $1.12 trillion over its first year. The Senate offered a net savings agenda of $46.8 billion, which is lower than the 112th’s $405 billion net increase in its first year, but does not include any high-cost universal health care proposals.
  • Across both Chambers, legislators introduced a net spending increase agenda of $1.28 trillion in their first six months, which is almost exactly the same total agenda proposed over the course of the entire 112th Congress.

Brady also analyzed lawmakers’ proposals by policy category, and found that health care and job creation/”stimulus” measures carried the highest costs to taxpayers. Among the least expensive proposals – those that would reduce federal spending the most – were across-the-board spending cuts, Affordable Care Act repeals, and tax code reforms that would reduce or eliminate many refundable credits.

Overall, although the 113th Congress has introduced its share of spending cuts, Brady’s analysis shows that at least over the first six months, it is doing so at a slower pace than the 112th. That finding comes at a time when many Americans are still concerned over mounting deficits and no sure sign that a long-term budget deal will be worked out in the coming months.

To read the full report online, complete with in-depth data, charts and analysis, click here. A press release with summary information can be found here.