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Taxpayer's Tab Issue #2

January 18, 2013




Vol. 4 Issue 2 January 17, 2013

Most Expensive Bill of the Week

The Bill: H.R. 32, the Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act

Annualized Cost: $558 million ($2.8 billion over five years)

Surviving spouses and certain family members are eligible to receive a deceased veteran's federal retirement benefit provided through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Benefits come in the form of monthly payments similar to a pension or Social Security check. However, a cap is currently in place on the amount that a spouse can receive simultaneously from the two primary benefit programs: Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP). DIC beneficiaries are able to collect up to $1,195 per month with additional allowance for children and housing whereas SBP is an elected pay-in option that will result in different rates according to the amount contributed.

Sponsored by Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC), H.R. 32 would remove the concurrent payment cap. The measure would allow eligible spouses to receive the maximum payments through both DIC and SBP.

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act would increase spending by $2.8 billion over the first five years and would impose a $6.5 billion ten-year cost on taxpayers. There are no offsets included in the proposal. The score originates from a CBO estimate released during the 112th Congress.

To learn more or discuss this bill visit

The Least Expensive Bill of the Week

The Bill: H.R. 57, a bill to make 15 percent across-the-board rescissions in non-defense, non-homeland-security, and non-veterans-affairs discretionary spending for each of the fiscal years 2013 and 2014

Annualized Savings: $53.9 billion ($107.9 billion over two years)

Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) reintroduced a quartet of related bills that would make cuts of varying sizes to the budget. Each bill targets across-the-board rescissions in discretionary spending excluding defense, homeland security, and veterans programs. The difference between the bills is the amount of cuts. Potential co-sponsors could choose to join Representative Blackburn to support cuts of either 1, 5, 10, or 15 percent in each of Fiscal Years 2013 and 2014.

The cost estimates for these bills were based on data included in the White House's July 2012 Mid-Session Review (MSR) of the federal budget. The MSR projects that non-security discretionary spending authority will be $355.9 billion in FY 2013 and $363.3 billion in FY 2014.

Across-the-Board Recession Proposals by Congresswoman Blackburn
(in millions of dollars)
FY 2013 Cuts
FY 2014 Cuts
Total Savings
Annualized Savings
Source: Bill Text and FY 2013 Mid-Session Review

H.R. 57 would cut $107.9 billion in a two-year period. As of January 17, Congress’s website,, only shows a single co-sponsor on any of these bills. Representative Scott Garrett (R-NJ) signed on to H.R. 59 to enact a 5 percent cut, which could save $36.0 billion over the next two years.

To learn more or discuss this bill visit

Most Friended

The Bill: H.R. 24, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2013

Annualized Savings: $3 million ($5 million over two years)

Number of Cosponsors: 67 House Members

The Federal Reserve System is the U.S.'s central banking network. It conducts monetary policy, and in its role as "lender of last resort," it provides stability to the nation's financial system. The $2.9 trillion in assets owned by the Federal Reserve includes gold, securities, and bonds. To avoid politicizing the money supply, the agency was established as an independent entity. Congress chartered and maintains some oversight of the "Fed" but much of their activities remain undisclosed to the public. Some are concerned that this independence has led to a lack of transparency of the Reserve and its operation. For example, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducts audits of some of the Reserve's actions. Currently, GAO examines regulations, payment systems, and government securities but the reports are not made available to the public.

Congressman Paul Broun (R-GA) introduced the Federal Reserve Transparency Act to direct GAO to conduct an audit of all Federal Reserve activities, including the 2009 and 2010 homeowner foreclosure loans. Congressman Steve Stockman (R-TX)* also introduced a similar measure in the form of H.R. 33, the Audit the Fed Act of 2013. Both bills also require the audits to be presented to Congress.

In the previous Congress, CBO determined that an audit specified in H.R. 24 would require additional GAO staff and would increase administrative expenses. They estimated a total cost of $5 million over two years.

Cosponsors of H.R. 24 include 62 House Republicans and 5 Democrats.

* NTUF does not have a BillTally report for Congressman Stockman because he is a freshman Representative.

To learn more or discuss this bill visit

The Wildcard

The Bill: H.R. 103, the Ending Fiscal Cliffs Act of 2013

Annualized Cost: "No Cost" -- Regulation

Taxpayers, watch out! Although policymakers at the last moment swerved us away from the "fiscal cliff," we are about to smack into the ceiling: the legal limit on the government's ability to issue new debt.

In August 2011 the limit was bumped up by $2.1 trillion to its current level: $16.4 trillion. On December 31, the government reached that limit, though the Treasury Department announced it is able to take certain steps that will delay until mid-February or early March the day of reckoning.

So the early months of the year will include more rounds of high-stakes budget negotiations leading up to that day, which could possibly be as early as February 15. At that point, the Treasury would have to begin prioritizing payments to avoid defaulting on obligations. Keith Hennessey has a useful summary of the possible timetables and what default could mean.

Legislators have proposed different ways to address the problem, such as linking an increase in the ceiling with cuts in public spending, or still more tax increases. One way or another, Congress is already gearing up for a debate about the debt.

Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA) introduced H.R. 103 to avoid the debate and potential legislative gridlock that taxpayers have seen in the past. The bill would allow the President to raise the debt ceiling without the approval of Congress. Congressman Fattah believes the Act would "avoid default whenever Congress spends money or reduces revenues ... [and] avoid paralyzing political maneuvers" as seen during the recent "fiscal cliff" debate.

H.R. 103 would not directly increase the debt ceiling or change current federal spending. It is a transfer of budgetary power from Congress to the Executive Branch. The implications of the new authority, however, would likely result in increased federal spending over the long-term for debt interest.

To learn more or discuss this bill visit


Savings Bills Congress Left Behind Could Cut Next Year's Projected Deficit By 93%

NTUF's Research and Outreach Manager Dan Barrett details how the federal deficit could almost be entirely cut by using the proposed spending cuts of the 112th Congress and, if those spending reductions were implemented last year, Americans could have faced a $289 billion spending shortfall instead of $1.2 trillion.

Check out Dan's article posted on!

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 NTUF's Recent Blog Posts

The Foundation's staff have been busy on NTU's Government Bytes blog detailing how proposed spending could affect taxpayers.

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Pay-Per-Mile Tax Proposals

 We Want You!

NTUF is looking for spring and summer associate policy analysts to participate in our internship program. Associates assist with BillTally research and other policy projects. Academic credit is possible. Email questions to To apply visit our internship page. Join us and help keep a tab on Congress!

Missed an Issue?

Issue 1 - Jan 10
Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013

Issue 31 - Dec 21
NTUF Scores Thousands of Bills

Issue 30 - Dec 13
Congressional Health Care for Seniors Act

Issue 29 - Dec 7
Net Legislative Spending Cuts

Issue 28 - Nov 28
STEM Jobs Act

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.

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