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Taxpayer's Tab Issue #41

November 22, 2013

 

 

 

Vol. 4 Issue 41, November 22, 2013

Check out the Most Friended Bill of the Week section to learn about a bill to require disclaimers on taxypayer-funded radio and television ads.

Most Expensive Bill of the Week

The Bill: H.R. 3383/S. 851, the Caregivers Expansion and Improvement Act of 2013

Annualized Cost: $1.9 billion ($9.5 billion over five years)

Established in 2010, the Family Caregiver program provides benefits for individuals providing care for veterans with serious lasting injuries received during military service. Under current law, the program is available to former servicemembers who served on or after September 11, 2001 and are unable to perform basic daily activities. Through the Department of Veterans Affairs, eligible caregivers can receive a monthly stipend, travel reimbursements, health care services (including insurance if they are not covered under their veterans’ plan), and respite care.

Sponsored by Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the Caregivers Expansion and Improvement Act would extend the services of the Family Caregiver program to all veterans with a service-connected debilitating injury, not just those who served since the 2001 attack on U.S. soil.

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the new provisions would make approximately 70,000 new caregivers eligible for a monthly stipend and other benefits. Because the program would be opened up to an older population of veterans and caregivers, costs are expected to rise. Caregivers currently in the program receive an average of $25,000 each year, though the stipends and other benefits depend on the level of care needed by the veteran. CBO estimates that average annual stipend amounts would increase to an average of $33,000 in 2014, a 32 percent boost.

VA estimates that it spent $377 million on existing caregiver benefits in FY 2013 and requested $385 million for FY 2014. In total, CBO determined that the expanded program under this proposal would cost $9.5 billion over the next five years.

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


Least Expensive Bill of the Week

The Bill: H.R. 3102, the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act of 2013

Annualized Savings: $4.1 billion ($20.6 billion over five years)

One of the major unfinished items on Congress’s -- and the President’s -- legislative agenda is final passage of the farm bill, which provides funding for agricultural programs as well as food stamp subsidies. These programs were last fully authorized in 2008 through 2012, but were extended by one year as part of last year’s “fiscal cliff” deal. For the past 18 months  the House and Senate have been debating how or whether to reform the direct benefit programs for famers and the nutrition welfare programs that are funded in the farm bill.

A conference committee is trying to negotiate a final bill to reconcile the language passed separately by the House and Senate. The future of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is one the divisive issues between the Chambers. The Senate-passed bill would reauthorize SNAP for five years and reduce outlays by $4 billion over ten years while the House bill sought deeper savings.

Unable to approve a single omnibus farm bill, the House passed a bill without nutrition-related items (H.R. 2642) and then passed a separate nutrition-only bill. Sponsored by Congressman Frank Lucas (R-OK), H.R. 3102 would extend SNAP for another three years and would implement reforms to reduce spending by total of $20.6 billion over the next decade, according to CBO. The bill would change the eligibility requirements for SNAP benefits recipients, which CBO estimates would decrease the number of enrollees from 48 million in 2014 down to 34 million in 2023.

The conference is still actively negotiating, but at this time reports indicate that it is far from a deal. Though H.R. 3102 as introduced would decrease outlays if enacted, it is uncertain whether these reforms will be retained, and other measures being considered could more than offset these savings with multi-billion dollar spending increases.

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


Most Friended

The Bill: H.R. 3308, the Taxpayer Transparency Act of 2013

Annualized Cost: "No Cost" -- Regulatory

Number of Cosponsors: 111 Congressmen

Health care policy experts, as well as White House and Administration officials, have stressed that the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) long-term success depends on convincing enough younger and healthier individuals to enroll in the new program. High enrollment among young people would offset some of the cost of providing care to the very sick and/or old, who typically require more medical attention.

In the hopes of gaining support from key audiences, the White House unveiled an extensive advertising campaign during the lead up to the launch of ACA insurance exchanges last month. Those ads cost taxpayers a purported $700 million according to the Associated Press, and also sparked controversy regarding the messaging tactics they employed.

As NTUF Associate Curtis Kalin explained on Government Bytes last week, Congressman Billy Long (R-MO) introduced the Taxpayer Transparency Act of 2013 to make taxpayers more aware of how their money is being used to promote government initiatives. The legislation requires any Executive Branch agency to include a disclaimer in publicly-funded ads that clearly states how it was paid for. The notices must be clearly visible (or audible, in the case of radio ads).

Because agencies would be forced to pay for any compliance costs using money already appropriated for their communications budgets, NTUF estimates that the bill would not require any additional federal funding.

Cosponsors include 111 Republicans in the House.

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


The Wildcard

The Bill: H.R. 2061/S. 994, the Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act of 2013

Annualized Cost: $79 million ($395 million over five years)

During the Fiscal Year that just ended last September, the federal government spent $3.5 trillion – over $9 billion each day. Through watchdog agencies such as the Government Accountability Office, inspectors general offices, and program integrity efforts the government attempts -- with varying degrees of success and failure -- to cut down on waste, fraud, and abuse in spending. Short of flat out repealing duplicative and wasteful programs, the push for transparency is central to the efforts of providing for an accountable and responsible government. Yet these efforts are not cost-free. Two proposals in this Congress, one of which was approved by the House this past week, would consolidate and expand oversight and reporting requirements of agencies’ budgetary data.

Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2013 (DATA) as H.R. 2061 and S. 944, respectively. The proposal would extend oversight in two ways. As detailed in the September 6th edition of The Taxpayer's Tab, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board was established under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 to oversee the billions of dollars being spent under the President's signature "stimulus" bill. Last year, the Board was extended through 2015 and given responsibility to monitor Hurricane Sandy disaster relief spending. The DATA legislation would further extend the Board through 2017 at a cost of $102 million over the next five years.

Currently, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget administers USAspending.gov, a website that provides public data on federal spending. DATA would also transfer responsibility for this to the Department of the Treasury and increase the financial reporting requirements from federal agencies. According to the House committee report, "Despite groundbreaking efforts to make federal spending transparent to Americans, the information currently made available by the government often lacks accuracy, comprehensiveness, and usefulness. ... Significantly, the usefulness of [existing sites] is hampered by the Federal government's long-term failure to adopt common data elements and reporting standards for electronic financial information." CBO determined that the additional requirements and reports would cost $293 million over the next five years.

In total, CBO estimates that the Act would increase spending by $395 million over five years. A version of this bill in the previous Congress had a cost estimate of $575 million over five years. 

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

   

Welcome to The Taxpayer's Tab -- the weekly newsletter for up-to-the-minute research from the National Taxpayers Union Foundation's BillTally Project. For more information, check out NTUF's BillTally Project and our partner, WashingtonWatch.com!


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