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: H.R. 1500/S. 210, Helping Families Afford to Work Act
Annualized Cost: $4.22 billion ($21.1 billion over five years)
The Dependent Care Tax Credit (DCTC) was created in 1981 to help low-income families pay for child care. Congressman Gary Peters (MI-9) reasons that by providing families the means to care for their children, parents will be better able to find work without prohibitive child care costs pricing them out of the job market.
Helping Families Afford to Work Act amends the DCTC in four ways. The maximum household income level is raised to $20,000. Applicants are able to claim higher expense amounts as well, 50% instead of 35%. To help those already receiving the credit, the maximum dollar award is doubled to $12,000. Finally, H.R. 1500 makes the dependent care tax credit refundable.
The refundable portion of the credit will increase federal spending by just over $21 billion during the next five years. Senator Barbara Boxer (CA)'s bill, the Right Start Child Care and Education Act, includes other tax credits that are non-refundable and would not count as new spending.
Least Expensive Bill of the Week
The Bill: H.R. 4765/S.3082, A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to authorize individuals who are pursuing programs of rehabilitation, education, or training under laws administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to receive work-study allowances for certain outreach services provided through congressional offices, and for other purposes
Annualized Cost: $1 million ($4 million over five years)
Congressman Peter DeFazio (OR-4) and Senator Ron Wyden (OR) sponsored this week's least expensive bill, which is an expansion of the Department of Veterans Affairs' Work-Study Allowance Program. In addition to being able to work at VA facilities, H.R. 4765 would allow veterans to help Members of Congress by preparing and distributing veterans-related benefits documents.
Currently the Work-Study Allowance Program pays veterans minimum wage if they are in a work-study job and are a full-time or three-fourths-time students at traditional, vocational, or professional colleges and universities. The Department of Veterans Affairs has voiced its support for the bill for not only the increased outreach and veteran involvement but the low cost.
The Bill: H.R. 5808, To amend the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to establish a public health insurance option
Number of cosponsors: 129 Congressmen
During the health insurance debate, one of the more contentious issues was whether the government should provide its own health care plan, otherwise known as a "public option."The option, considered a way to offer people an alternative choice to private insurance, was left out of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (CA-6) sponsored H.R. 5808 to use the health exchanges established in the PPACA as a base for a public health insurance option. The measure would be funded with premiums, paid by subscribers, but also calls for $2 billion in start-up funding, which would be placed in a dedicated account within the Treasury. The public insurance program is required to be financially self-sufficient, paying for plans as well as their administration. Woolsey says a public option is "an insurance plan that competes based on delivering quality, efficient care, not on delivering profits to shareholders" in contrast to private companies.
H.R. 5808 would have an initial $2 billion cost but, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would begin to recoup costs in FY 2014. Premiums would begin to be collected at an estimated income for the government of $200 million per year. The legislation would have a $533 million annualized cost. However, the savings "are subject to an unusually high degree of uncertainty" because of the unknown impact of a public option upon private insurance companies, health care quality, and upon the overall health sector.
Cosponsors include Congressmen, all Democrats, from different parts of the country.