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.
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
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.
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.