Welcome to the Taxpayer's Tab -- the weekly newsletter for up-to-the-minute research from the National Taxpayers Union Foundation's BillTally Project.
Since 1991, NTUF has computed the legislative spending agendas of Members of Congress by analyzing the costs -- and savings -- of the bills that they sponsor and cosponsor. Our goal is to provide you with objective information about what Congress wants to do with your tax dollars in an open and transparent manner.
Each week, NTUF will bring you updates on the week's most and least expensive
bills, the ones with the most cosponsors ("the most friended"), and a
few bills we've termed Wildcards -- bills that we think
you might find interesting. Subscribe here.
For more information on the National Taxpayers Union Foundation
or the BillTally
Project, check out our website and methodology.
Most Expensive Bill of the Week
The Bill: H.R. 2368, Put America to Work Act
Annualized Cost: $70 billion ($350 billion over five years)
To help struggling Americans, Congressman Keith Ellison (MN-5) introduced H.R. 2368. The Put America to Work Act would make grants to state and local governments, and to Indian tribes as well, to create employment opportunities for residents who are either unemployed or underemployed. Grants would only be made available for distressed areas, such as those affected by mass foreclosures or natural disasters.
Tax dollars would be allocated for "fast-track jobs," which include repairing public buildings and spaces, restoring vacant properties, expanding food programs, and increasing staff for early childhood education programs, such as Head Start. Employment grants would also be used to increase energy efficiency in buildings, to provide human services, and to contribute to programs for disadvantaged youth. Individuals would be required to be employed for at least 12 months and work no less than 30 hours per week.
The text of the bill would authorize $350 billion for fiscal years 2012 and 2013. The funds would remain available until expended. NTUF assumes the funds would be spent over five years. Tribal governments would receive no more than five percent of total funds and state governments would be limited to 30 percent of funds.
Least Expensive Bill of the Week
Bill: S. 820, Simplified, Manageable, And Responsible Tax (SMART) Act
Annualized Savings: -$77.171 billion (first-year savings)
As Members of Congress debate whether to raise the debt limit, tax reform has also been mentioned as a way to help alleviate the government's fiscal difficulties. While some legislators are calling for marginal increases or cuts, Senator Richard Shelby (AL) wants to reform the tax system with S. 820.
The SMART Act would replace the progressive income brackets in the current Tax Code with a flat 17 percent tax on all income. The Act would establish a standard deduction for filers and it would eliminate other exemptions and credits, including refundable credits such as the Earned Income Credit (see below).
Refundable Credits Repealed By S. 820
(in millions of $)
||FY 2012 Savings
|Earned Income Credit
|Child Tax Credit
|American Opportunity Credit
|Small Business Health Insurance Tax Credit
|Health Coverage Tax Credit
|Alternative Minimum Tax Credit
Source: Budget of the U.S. Government, Fiscal Year 2012, Appendix
Under the Congressional Budget Office's budgetary rules, refunds from a refundable credit in excess of the taxpayer's liability are counted as spending. By eliminating these refundable credits, S. 820 would save $77 billion. It is unknown whether changing to a flat income tax would alter the enforcement and processing costs of the IRS.
To see other fundamental tax system reform bills, check out The Taxpayer's Tab article on the Fair Tax Act. The National Taxpayers Union also maintains a listing of "Who Pays Income Taxes and how much?"
Bill: H.R. 1852/S. 958,
Children’s Hospital GME Support Reauthorization Act of 2011
Annualized Cost: "No Cost"
Number of Cosponsors: 95 Congressmen and 22 Senators
The Children's Hospitals Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) Payment Program provides public funds to certain hospitals that have graduate medical education programs. Under the program, freestanding children's hospitals would receive funding to train resident physicians, enhance hospital capabilities, and to provide care for some at-risk children. Freestanding children's hospitals are facilities devoted to the care of children and are not associated with larger general hospitals.
Set to expire at the end of FY 2011, the CHGME Payment Program would be reauthorized under bills introduced by Congressman Joseph Pitts (PA-16) and Senator Robert Casey (PA). H.R. 1852 and S. 958 would not change how the program is administered or how much the program is authorized to spend. According to the CHGME Payment Program website, the program is authorized to spend $330 million annually. CHGME Payment Program was appropriated $317.5 million in FY 2010.
H.R. 1852 and S. 958 would reauthorize current spending without any additional funding for the CHGME Payment Program. Under BillTally rules, NTUF scores changes in spending that would result from legislation. As the two bills do not change the spending baseline, there are no new costs associated with their enactment.
Cosponsors include 62 Democratic and 33 Republican House members. In the Senate, 15 Senators who caucus with the Democratic Party and 7 Republicans support S. 958.