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Taxpayers Tab


Taxpayer's Tab Issue #29

December 7, 2012

 

 

 

Vol. 3 Issue 29 December 7, 2012

BillTally Update: Net Legislative Spending Cuts

Last week's edition of the Taxpayer's Tab featured a data snapshot of the number of bills with estimates to either increase or decrease spending. We found that for each bill to cut spending introduced in Congress, there were between four and five bills that would increase outlays. This week, while our political leaders debate possible solutions to the so-called "fiscal cliff," it seems fitting to take a closer look at the savings bills Members have set forth.

The debate thus far has largely concerned the impending tax hikes. News coverage has generally excluded discussion of the nation's long-term, spending-fueled debt problem. The Obama Administration's position, as stated by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, is that the country cannot afford not to raise taxes. But even if the Republicans cede to the President's demand for tax hikes on certain filers, the spending problem would remain. The White House's July 2012 Mid-Session Review of the federal budget -- which includes estimates of President's tax hike proposal -- projects that annual deficits will average $606 billion per year from FY 2014 through FY 2022. The solution to the budget problem requires spending reform, and there are a number of ready proposals that have been drafted in the House and Senate. Preliminary data from NTUF's BillTally analysis of legislation identifies over $900 billion in annual savings that has been introduced in Congress.

Congressional Savings Agendas
(in Billions of Dollars)
Chamber Total Savings Bills Non-Overlapping Savings Bills Annualized Savings
(Over 5 Years)
Annualized Savings From Spending Caps/Unobligated Rescissions Annualized Savings From Specific Cuts
House 199 123 ($735.22) ($438.11) ($297.11)
Senate 105 79 ($811.01) ($98.55) ($712.46)
Total 304 154 ($921.65) ($486.80) ($434.85)
Source: NTUF BillTally System
Note: Data is preliminary. The House data includes 185 bills whose net impact would be to reduce spending, plus 14 additional savings proposals included as partial offsets in bills that would, in net, increase annual spending. Senate data includes 102 net savings bills and three additional proposals included as partial offsets in bills that would, in net, increase annual spending.

As the table above shows, as of December 5, NTUF has researched and obtained cost estimates for 304 proposals introduced in Congress that would reduce spending: 199 in the House and 105 in the Senate. This House figure includes 185 bills that would lead to a net reduction in outlays and an additional fourteen savings provisions that were included as partial offsets in legislation that would otherwise lead to annual budgetary increases. Senators introduced 102 net cutting bills, plus an additional three proposals included as partial offsets in spending bills.

The cost items of certain bills were split up to account for sections that include large immediate spending increases and separate budget reductions that are spread over a longer period of time. For example, H.R. 3630, Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2011, included an extension of unemployment benefits and an update to the Medicare physician payment rate that would increase outlays at an annual rate of $12.4 billion, with most of the cost front-loaded in the first two years. The bill included spending reductions such as ending nutrition benefits for millionaires and an increase in certain mortgage fees and premiums (scored as offsetting receipts by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO)) that would reduce outlays at an annualized rate of $5.8 billion per year.

These 304 proposals were examined closely to identify overlapping measures, i.e., bills that are either identical or would achieve similar ends by similar means. Bills that are overlapping are marked in the BillTally accounting system so that separate proposals that are the same are not double-counted. For example, if a Representative or Senator is a sponsor of several different bills that would each reduce the salaries of Members of Congress, only the largest savings would be counted toward that Member's net spending agenda.

NTUF was able to identify 123 unique spending reductions in the House that, if passed into law, would reduce annual outlays by $735.2 billion. Among the 105 Senate savings proposals, 79 were non-overlapping. If these bills were enacted, spending could be cut by upwards of $811.0 billion annually.

The full menu of cuts range from 98 proposals to cut spending by less than $100 million to 18 that would cut spending by $100 billion or more. Generally, the larger savings proposals would implement across-the-board cuts in spending. For example the largest savings bill in the House, H.R. 4060, the Freeze Government Spending Act of 2012, introduced by Representative Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), would cap spending and lead to an annual savings of $433.3 billion. In the Senate, though, the largest cut bill, S. 162, the Cut Federal Spending Act introduced by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), includes targeted agency and program cuts that exceeded the savings included in across-the-board spending caps that were introduced in the Senate. Based on the figures in the text and other budget data, the bill would reduce outlays by $411.1 billion.

The remaining 202 unique House and Senate savings proposals were then examined to weed out overlapping proposals between the two Chambers. NTUF has identified 154 non-overlapping cuts that, if enacted, could reduce spending by upwards of $921.7 billion per year.

The full list of bills and proposals to reduce spending is available here. All data is preliminary and subject to revision as new information becomes available. And, as noted, we are continuing to wrap up our research on legislation for a final report on the 112th Congress early in the New Year.

If any of our readers on Capitol Hill or elsewhere are aware of any additional spending reductions in legislation that are not yet included on the list, please let us know at ntuf@ntu.org.

Photo Credit: Federal Budget Challenge

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The Wildcard

The Bill: H.R. 1513/S. 810, Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act of 2011

Annualized Cost: $11 million ($56 million over five years)

Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act to prohibit invasive research on great apes and to permanently retire apes under federal control to wildlife sanctuaries. Invasive research means administering substances or procedures that may be physically or psychologically harmful or deadly for test subjects. Currently, the National Institutes of Health has approximately 440 chimpanzees available for testing.

If the proposal is enacted, apes would be sent to reserves where they would be cared for for the rest of their lives. These locations would be prohibited from conducting their own animal research, transferring the chimps elsewhere for the purposes of invasive research, using animals for entertainment purposes, and allowing animals to breed. To assist sanctuaries with the increased care costs, the Act would establish a fund to supplement some of the expenses for facilities now in operation as well as to build new habitats for the chimpanzees.

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), H.R. 1513 and S. 810 would result in a net cost increase to the federal government of $56 million over five years. CBO estimated the costs of the following actions:

  • Housing Facilities: CBO could identify only one facility that meets minimum care requirements and that sanctuary would not be able to accept all of the apes. The federal government would need to build a new habitat or expand the one already in operation, which would cost at least $29 million.
  • Transportation: The apes would have to be brought to the sanctuaries, resulting in approximately $500,000 in spending.
  • Care: Assuming that the apes would decrease in population over time but that care costs would rise with inflation, CBO estimates $26 million would be required to be spent. However, this amount could change because the cost of care is not easily determined.

CBO does not foresee any significant changes in the costs of medical research once chimpanzees are prohibited from use as research subjects. It is unclear whether or not alternative methods and models of testing would result in a savings. Writing in The Hill, Congressman Bartlett reported that alternatives exist that are cheaper and more reliant than testing on primates but offered no savings figures.

To learn more or discuss this bill visit WashingtonWatch.com.

 

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. Cosponsor information obtained from GovTrack.us.

 

 



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