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Letter


NTU Urges Appropriations Committee to Eliminate Ineffective Programs

April 7, 2006

The Honorable Jerry Lewis
Chairman, House Appropriations Committee
H-218 Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Lewis:

On behalf of the 350,000 members of the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), I urge you to enact the 141 program terminations and funding reductions (worth $14.7 billion in savings) contained within President Bush's FY 2007 budget proposal. As you begin drafting appropriations bills, please keep in mind that many of the President's termination and reduction requests were based on the "next-generation" performance budgeting apparatus, the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART). By providing programs with numerical ratings and systemic recommendations, the hope is that government will become more efficient and accountable through PART evaluations.

Of course, "performance" is only half of the "performance budgeting" equation, and for this calculus to yield proper results, Congress must consider evaluative data included in the President's budgeting requests. Up until now, this hasn't necessarily been the case.

A recent study conducted by NTU found that while PART has helped to put agencies on notice that taxpayers are measuring their fiscal competence, Congress has yet to fully integrate performance expectations into budgeting. For example, of the 15 programs measured by PART that were zeroed out (as opposed to merely reduced) in the FY2005 budget proposal, 13 were marked again for termination in FY 2006. Congressional appropriators ignored the President's recommendations and restored funding, even though 4 of the programs were deemed "Ineffective" and 7 were listed as "Results Not Demonstrated"! Out of the 48 programs measured by PART that were zeroed out in the FY 2006 budget proposal, at least 27 were again marked for termination in the FY 2007 budget.

As in recent years, the decision behind many spending-restraint initiatives in the President's FY 2007 budget was at least partially based on the PART scores: 102 of the 141 programs highlighted for termination or reduction received low ratings under the PART system. However, at least 54 were targeted in last year's budget too. For PART to have even a minor impact in the future, Congress will need to take performance ratings more seriously in its budgeting choices.

If Congress enacted all 302 of the President's strictly PART-related recommendations to cut spending in FY 2007, federal expenditures would fall by $47.5 billion - still less than 2 percent of all proposed outlays. Clearing away this plainly-visible "dead wood" that serves to rot our budget could allow a more prudent fiscal policy to take root. Moreover, we urge all appropriators to consider the message sent to taxpayers should you continue to fund poorly-performing government programs with America's hard-earned tax dollars.

Sincerely,

Kristina M. Rasmussen
Government Affairs Manager