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Taxpayers Tab

Taxpayer's Tab Issue #24

July 26, 2011




Vol. 2 Issue 24 July 26, 2011


Welcome to the Taxpayer's Tab -- the weekly newsletter for up-to-the-minute research from the National Taxpayers Union Foundation's BillTally Project.

us_capitolSince 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.

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: S. 652, Building and Upgrading Infrastructure for Long-Term Development (BUILD) Act

Annualized Cost: $400 million ($2 billion over five years)

As America's infrastructure continues to age and the cost of refurbishing it continues to grow, some in Washington are looking for ways to address these twin challenges. Senator John Kerry (MA) has introduced the BUILD Act to replace America's infrastructure through a public-private partnership.

BUILD would establish the American Infrastructure Financing Authority (AIFA). This independent government entitiy would essentially be an infrastructure bank that would provide direct loans and loan guarantees for transportation, water, and energy projects. Rural projects would be evaluated separately from urban projects. In light of the country's financial situation, AIFA would upgrade infrastructures through public-private partnerships and financial backing.

The BUILD Act would authorize $10 billion for the AIFA to provide loans and guarantees. A similar infrastructure bank proposed by the Obama Administration included a subsidy cost of 20 percent, this represents the expected loss to taxpayers. The funds would be used almost entirely for projects. NTUF assumes the bulk of federal funds would be spent in the first five years. Senator Kerry believes that AIFA "could be self-sustaining in as little as three years."

Least Expensive Bill of the Week

The Bill: H.R. 1683/S. 868, State Flexibility Act

Annualized Savings: -$960 million (-$4.8 billion over five years)

State governments continue to weigh which budgetary steps they must take to balance their budgets. One potential area to cut is state-subsidized medical coverage, including programs such as Medicaid and the Children Health Insurance Program (CHIP). These programs are joint spending programs with the federal government. Some Governors and state legislators are looking to scale back coverage for people already using the Medicaid system and to limit new entrants into the system to hold down costs.

However, states must comply with Maintenance of Effort (MOE). MOE provision enacted in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. These regulations require states to maintain eligibility levels for Medicaid and CHIP until 2019.

To help states facing uncertain budget situations, Congressman Phil Gingrey (GA-11) and Senator Orrin Hatch (UT) have introduced the State Flexibility Act. The bill would repeal MOE requirements, which would allow states to set their own policies regarding low-income health care coverage.

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation, the State Flexibility Act would save taxpayers $4.8 billion over the next five years. Enactment would likely result in changes to how states calculate state-provided medical eligibility and lead to fewer people being enrolled in both Medicaid and CHIP. Some current Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries would also lose coverage. People who would be disallowed or cut from Medicaid would go uninsured or have to find other forms of medical coverage.

Most Friended

The Bill: H.R. 178/S. 260, Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act

Annualized Cost: $615 million ($3.075 billion over five years)

Number of Cosponsors: 145 Congressmen and 42 Senators

The Department of Veterans Affairs offers surviving families of former military personnel to two primary options to receive their deceased relatives retirement pay: Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP). These two programs provide surviving spouses with monthly payments similar to Social Security and pension checks. A cap limits how much spouses can receive concurrently from these programs.

H.R. 178 and S. 260 would repeal the cap and allow spouses to receive the full benefit amount due to them. The bills were introduced by Congressman Joe Wilson (SC-2) and Senator Bill Nelson (FL).

According to CBO, the Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act would have an annualized cost of $615 million and would increase spending by approximately $3 billion over five years.

H.R. 178 has now been included in H.R. 1979, a bill that would change certain veterans' benefits. This larger reform bill was introduced by Congressman Robert Andrews (NJ-1). NTUF estimates H.R. 1979 would have a total cost of $16.7 billion over five years if enacted.

House cosponsors include 76 Democrats and 69 Republicans. In the Senate, 32 Senators who caucus with the Democratic Party and 10 Republicans support S. 260.


The Wildcard

The Bill: H.R. 1876/S. 984, Healthy Families Act

Annualized Cost: $4 million ($17 million over five years)

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-3) and Senator Tom Harkin (IA) have each introduced versions of the Healthy Families Act. The bill would require businesses that employ 15 or more people to grant paid sick time to their employees. If employees work at least 20 workweeks per year, their employer would have to give them one hour of compensated sick leave for every 30 hours worked. A maximum of 56 hours could be accumulated every year. Earned days off could be carried over to the next year.

Qualifying workers would be able to take time off for personal illness, medical appointments, family member illness, and when recovering from or dealing with domestic violence or sexual assault. H.R. 1876 would also allow government regulators to investigate company compliance as well as collect workplace data.

NTUF was able to score H.R. 1876 and S. 984 by comparing them with legislation from the 110th Congress, S. 910. A CBO report for S. 910 estimated the provisions of the Healthy Families Act would result in a $17 million cost for the first five years. The imposed sick leave requirement would count as a regulation, which NTUF does not score; however, the costs of collecting data from employers would lead to new spending. It is unclear if the bill would increase costs for businesses to comply with the new regulation.

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Issue 23 - July 20

Issue 22 - July 12
June Snapshot

Issue 21 - June 28

Issue 20 - June 21


About NTUF

The National Taxpayers Union Foundation is a research and educational organization dedicated solely to helping citizens of all generations understand how tax policies, spending programs, and regulations at all levels affect them now and in the future. Through NTUF's timely information, analysis, and commentary, we're empowering citizens to actively engage in the fiscal policy debate and hold public officials accountable every day.

NTUF is a 501(c)(3) research and education organization. Donations are deductible for personal income tax purposes. Please make a donation today to help further NTUF's mission of research and education!

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to aid or hinder the passage of any legislation or as a comment on any Member's fitness to serve.



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