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Pass Bills to Fix the Broken Budget Process!
An Open Letter to the United States Congress:

January 25, 2012

Dear Member of Congress:

On behalf of the 362,000 members of the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), I urge you to support legislative efforts underway with House Budget Committee Members to strengthen spending controls, enhance accountability, and increase transparency in the federal budget process.

The past decade has witnessed an explosion in spending driven by factors such as the creation of a new cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security, rapidly rising entitlement costs, and the recent surge in so-called “crisis responses,”  including the $862 billion “economic stimulus” bill of 2009. Congress clearly lacks the institutional will to restrain spending, a situation made worse by the fact that lawmakers maneuver on a field tilted in favor of increased spending and taxes. The budgeting process itself is also undoubtedly broken, as evidenced by Congress’s abandonment of the regular-order appropriations process in the past several years. Washington has instead relied upon stopgap measures or last minute must-pass deals that few have had a chance to read or understand.

Republican Members of the House Budget Committee have introduced a package of nine thoughtfully constructed bills that would help to apply the brakes to a budgeting process in danger of spinning out of control. Among the many beneficial proposals, Rep. Campbell’s “Spending Control Act” would set total, mandatory, and discretionary spending caps. The result would be a more holistic, deliberative exercise in which spending increases in one area must be offset with spending cuts in another. This is a powerful tool for encouraging legislators to prioritize expenditures. However, NTU would like to have seen a more aggressive approach that would achieve balance between outlays and historical revenues more quickly.

The reform package would also lessen the bias toward ever-higher spending by making prudent adjustments to how the calculation of the budgetary baseline is conducted. Rep. Woodall’s “Baseline Reform and Government Shutdown Prevention Act,” would eliminate automatic inflation increases that are baked into the budgetary cake and often obscure the true amount of year-to-year spending reductions or increases. Another proposal, Rep. Chaffetz’s “Review Every Dollar Act,” would help take the federal budget off auto-pilot by requiring periodic reviews of all federal programs and making modest changes to direct spending programs like the Highway Trust Fund and Pell Grants to more accurately reflect their impact on the budget. Additionally, Rep. Garrett’s “Budget Transparency Act” would introduce a “fair-value” methodology to federal credit programs so as to incorporate the impact of market risk and thus provide a more realistic accounting of their costs to taxpayers.

These are but a few highlights among the nine bills introduced by House Republicans devoted to creating a more workable and transparent budget process. They would not serve as a cure-all, or as a substitute for constitutional measures such as a Balanced Budget Amendment. Nonetheless, they would instill a healthy measure of spending discipline as well as bring more clarity to federal finances. For all these reasons, NTU recommend that you work toward enactment of this multi-faceted package.


Brandon Greife
Federal Government Affairs Manager