Where Could Congress Cut Spending?
With the passage of the Murray-Ryan budget compromise bill in the Senate, President Obama is expected to sign the measure into law as soon as today. As we noted, the bill increases federal spending by $65 billion (75 percent of which will occur in the first two years) by raising budget caps that were agreed to just a few years ago. It also includes offsets of $78 billion over the next 10 years -- three quarters of which occur six to ten years from now. Moreover, nearly half of the savings in the bill are achieved by increasing user fees in a way comparable to a tax increase.
The major flaw of this proposal is that it increases spending now and promises to pay for it years later. By approving this bill, Congress is weakening recently-passed, self-imposed budget limits … so why should taxpayers expect that Congress will abide to the reductions in this compromise over the long term? Some Members, including Congressman and House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI), have already signaled that legislators will likely revisit the Cost-of-Living Adjustments, or COLA, slowdown for certain military retirees that was included in the compromise (savings of $1 billion over five years and $6 billion over ten). It is conceivable that similar carve outs will occur as elected officials give in to pressure for more spending.
While it is disappointing that Congress is not choosing to replace the automatic across-the-board sequester caps with an equal amount of upfront targeted spending cuts, unfortunately, it is not surprising. Historical data from BillTally, NTU Foundation's legislative tracking program, shows that Congress produces far more proposals to increase spending than ways to trim the budget. The same trend is observed in this Congress. As of December 17, we have identified 84 savings bills and 424 spending bills in the House and 40 savings bills and 254 spending bills in the Senate.
A complete list of all the spending reductions is available as an Excel spreadsheet for download. The list also includes some savings ideas that were included as partial offsets in bills that would, on net, increase spending.
NTUF observed that during the 112th Congress, half of all the cut bills were authored during the first six months and 75 percent by the end of the first year, becoming more scarce during the second year. We are still in the process of reviewing and scoring legislation for the current Congress, but so far, the bulk of the savings we identified were introduced during the first six months of the year.
There is certainly no shortage of places Congress could look for more spending reductions in the $3.5 trillion budget. Lots of reference sources are available: from Senator Coburn's (R-OK) Wastebook, to NTU & US PIRG's list of cuts, and the Congressional Budget Office's most recent Budget Options reports on discretionary, defense, and mandatory reductions, to name just a few.
As federal spending, debt, and overreach are set to figure more prominently in policy debates and campaigns during this upcoming election year, will taxpayers see their Representatives and Senators drafting more cut proposals in 2014? Stay tuned to find out because NTUF will continue to keep a close watch on Congress throughout the New Year!
The Year Ahead...
Over the past year, National Taxpayers Union Foundation has been at the forefront of many of the policy debates and legislative battles we've witnessed in state capitols and Washington, D.C. Thanks to the support of Members and Taxpayer's Tab subscribers, NTUF analysts scored President Obama's agenda as laid out in his State of the Union Address and proposed budget; uncovered the costs taxpayers are shouldered with for every hour the President is aboard Air Force One; revealed the inefficiencies that plague local tobacco taxes; and broke down how candidates in the New Jersey special Senate election would change the budget. All the while, Foundation staff and interns scored thousands of bills introduced in the 113th Congress as part of our unique BillTally system.
We've done so much already. Looking forward, there is still so much to do.
In 2014, NTUF will continue to provide taxpayers with timely information on the spending issues of the day. Our BillTally research -- the only project that scores nearly every spending measure in Congress -- will remain at the heart of our education efforts, but things will be changing in how we get BillTally findings to you. The Taxpayer's Tab will be redesigned, making it easier to convey our up-to-the-minute research on the costs and implications of new and noteworthy bills to more Americans. Plans are also underway to improve our website, allowing better access to our scores and analyses. Of course, NTUF will continue to give you the most relevant and accurate facts on proposals coming from Congress and the White House as they are released.
Additionally, NTU Foundation is educating a new generation of policy experts and communicators through our renowned internship program. We intend to bring more students and recent graduates into the movement for limited government by giving them a chance to develop the real-world skills they need to make an impact. Interested in joining our Fellowship Club and supporting an intern? Be sure to check out our donation page, where you can learn more about making a tax-deductible donation.
These bold new plans will require the full efforts of NTUF staff and supporters. Please consider joining with us and spreading the word as we work to bring taxpayers the information they need to get the nation back on track.
Director of Research
Research & Outreach Manager
Photo Credit: Fox News
NTUF in the News
Building on his report from this summer, Policy Analyst Michael Tasselmyer provided details to the Hawaii Reporter regarding how much President Obama's holiday flight to the Aloha State will cost taxpayers. He calculated that the roundtrip transportation aboard Air Force One will carry a $3.2 million price tag. Later, the article was featured on Drudge Report.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. To apply visit our internship page. Join us and help keep a tab on Congress!
Missed an Issue?
Issue 42 - Dec 6
Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act
Issue 41 - Nov 22
Caregivers Expansion and Improvement Act
Issue 40 - Nov 15
Community College to Career Fund Act
Issue 39 - Nov 7
10 Largest Spending and Cut Proposals So Far
Issue 38 - Oct 31
NTUF BillTally 6 Month Report
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