Colorado U.S. Senate Candidate Spending Analysis: Ken Buck

Total Net Spending Agenda: -$1.405 billion

Economy, Transportation, and Infrastructure: Unknown

A. Taxpayer Bailouts:

“… NO company should ever be treated favorably with taxpayer dollars because they are considered ‘too big to fail.’ We have a system in place to handle banks and other companies that get in trouble. It’s called bankruptcy, and it should be used where appropriate.”

            Cost: Unknown.

Note: Orderly Liquidation Authority, a new insolvency regime for certain large financial companies, was enacted into law in H.R. 4173 (111th Congress), the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 111-203). The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated this provision would cost $14.6 billion over five years. It is unclear if this is the specific system to which Buck is referring.

Education, Science, and Research: Unknown

A. Local Education Control:

“The federal government has had a role in education that’s been counterproductive, in my view, and we’ve got to transfer as much of that educational role to the states and have local decision-making on education as fast as possible.” (min. 1:00)

            Cost: Unknown.

Note: Related legislation was introduced in the form of H.R. 1857 (110th Congress), the Local Control of Education Act of 2007. The bill would prohibit federal funding of any program under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and prohibit those programs from operating in states unless approved through enacted state legislation. It is unclear from Buck’s statement whether he would support this legislative approach.

According to Table 4.1 of the Budget of the U.S. Government, Fiscal Year 2011, Historical Tables, the Department of Education received $106.944 billion in FY 2010 and requested $94.261 billion for FY 2011.

Energy, Agriculture, and the Environment: -$330 million (savings)

A. Comprehensive Energy Policy:

“We need a comprehensive energy policy, nationwide.”

“While I am in favor of moving as quickly as is practical to new energy alternatives to replace our dependence on foreign oil [,]… [w]e can’t meet our energy demands with windmills and solar panels and other alternatives in the near term. We may get to the point in the next decade or two, but we’re not there today.”

“… [W]e must aggressively expand energy production in our country, including stepping up drilling and looking to nuclear power as one of our best sources for non-carbon energy.”

“We’ve got to look at clean coal technology, which is on the horizon five or six years away.” (min. 7:30)

Cost:  -$330 million (-$1.652 million over five years).

  • Domestic Oil Exploration: (-$375 million). Related legislation has been introduced in the form of H.R. 6593 (110th Congress), the Domestic Drilling Act. The bill would terminate prohibitions on leasing areas of the Outer Continental Shelf and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The estimate, based on the text of the bill and CBO data, reflects “offsetting receipts” to the U.S. Treasury, which are officially counted as “negative outlays.” It would decrease costs by $1.876 billion over five years.

  • Nuclear Energy: ($45 million). Related legislation has been introduced in the form of S. 2052 (111th Congress), the Nuclear Energy Research Initiative Improvement Act of 2009. The bill would fund research for deploying new commercial nuclear reactors. CBO estimated the effort would cost $224 million over five years.

  • Clean Coal: (Unknown). It is unclear if Buck would use tax credits or outlays in increasing clean coal technology research and development. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided $750 million to the Department of Energy’s Clean Coal Power Initiative in FY 2010.

Note:  H.R. 2846 (111th Congress), the American Energy Act, would address a number of energy issues including opening more areas to natural gas exploration, streamlining the nuclear regulatory process, and providing tax incentives for the use of clean coal equipment and to assist in the operation of coal-to-liquid fuel facilities.  A cost estimate is unavailable.  NTUF is unable to estimate any other costs due to the lack of details in Buck’s proposal.

B. Federal Wilderness Area Designation:

“We do not need President Obama designating wilderness. What we need in Colorado is a bottom-up solution where communities come together and decide on land use – not a bureaucrat in Washington DC and that’s exactly what’s been happening.” (min. 17:00)

            Cost: Unknown.

Federal Government: Unknown

A. American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Fund Reallocation:

“… [W]e have to replace the stimulus program, it didn’t limit unemployment, we still have unemployment at a very high rate in Colorado and around the country.”

            Cost: Unknown.

Note: Related legislation has been introduced in the form of S. 2981 (111th Congress), the Reevaluate and Redirect the Stimulus Act of 2010. The bill would review unobligated funds authorized in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and would redirect approved funds to assist either displaced workers or job creation.

As of September 17, 2010, unobligated “stimulus” spending for contracts, grants, loans, and entitlements totaled $199 billion. NTUF assumes that the bulk of these funds would otherwise be spent over the next five years. There is an additional $55 billion worth of unobligated tax benefits, an unknown portion of which may result in outlays through refundable credits.{EB595CCA-D93F-48F4-AF96-11E2D41DE73D}&xsl=Charts/FundingOverviewChartTextView.xsl

B. Budget – Constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment:

“It is time that we have a Balanced Budget Amendment.”

            Cost: Unknown.

Note: Several pieces of related legislation have been introduced, among them S.J. Res. 27 (111th Congress), which among other provisions would prohibit outlays of the United States Government from exceeding revenues in any fiscal year unless Congress authorizes a specific deficit by a two-thirds roll call vote. Although the savings from this Constitutional Amendment could be substantial, they are dependent upon whether Congress chooses to authorize deficits in certain years and the amounts of such deficits.

Health Care: -$2.575 billion (savings)

A. Federally-Funded Abortions:

“As U.S. Senator, Ken will oppose federal funding of abortion and will fight to protect the life of the unborn.”

            Cost: Unknown.

Note: Related legislation has been introduced in the form of H.R. 5939 (111th Congress), the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. A cost estimate is currently unavailable.

B. Health Insurance Tax Credit:

“We should … use a tax deduction to encourage individuals to buy their own insurance.”

            Cost: Unknown.

Note: The impact on outlays would depend upon the extent to which subsidies or “refundable” credits for insurance are offered. The refundable (i.e., in excess of an individual’s tax liability) portions of a credit are officially counted as an outlays. In his Fiscal Year 2008 Budget, President George W. Bush offered a health insurance tax credit proposal that had a refundable component. At the time, NTUF estimated the potential cost at $2.856 billion per year. However, NTUF is unable to estimate any other costs here due to the lack of details in Buck’s proposal.

C. Health Payment Reform:

“It is clear to me that we need to get away from the fee-for-service model [Medicare and Medicaid] that we have now and we need to adopt a model that brings greater efficiencies and lowers costs and improves accessibility.” (min. 14:40)

            Cost: Unknown.

Note: Similar to the scope of Buck’s plan for Social Security reform, a change in the federal government’s fee-for-service model would directly affect the operation and basic structure of the Medicare and Medicaid systems. H.R. 4529 (111th Congress), the Roadmap for America’s Future Act of 2010, offers greater tax incentives in the private health care sector and restructures Medicaid as a state grant program. The bill would extend current outlays into future years but the possible offsetting savings or additional costs are uncertain. It is also unclear if Buck would support this legislative approach.

D. Health Savings Accounts:

“Federal policy should also encourage individuals to buy high-deductible policies and to establish health savings accounts.”

            Cost: Unknown.

Note: Related legislation has been introduced in the form of H.R. 3971 (111th Congress), the Health Savings Account Expansion Act of 2009 and H.R. 3234 (110th Congress): A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to improve access to health care through expanded health savings accounts. Cost estimates for both bills are currently unavailable.

E. High-Risk Insurance Pools:

“… [G]overnment should focus tax dollars on hard cases – people who have been denied coverage for pre-existing conditions. But state governments have much more experience in establishing high-risk insurance pools… . Washington should encourage states to provide such healthcare coverage as it has traditionally done, through grants and other incentives.”

Cost: Unknown.
Note: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148) included $5 billion for high risk pools to help cover individuals with pre-existing conditions. H.R. 4038 (111th Congress), the Common Sense Health Care Reform and Affordability Act, a Republican alternative, would provide $25 billion for high-risk pools. Buck is unclear on whether he would support additional federal funding, and if so how much.

F. Health Insurance Flexibility:

“I think we need to make sure that insurance is portable across state lines.” (min. 12:00)

            Cost: Unknown.

Note: Buck is unclear as to whether he is proposing greater geographic portability for existing insurance policies or whether he is proposing to allow the purchase of new health insurance plans across state lines. If he is proposing the latter, related legislation was introduced in the form of H.R. 2355 (109th Congress), the Health Care Choice Act of 2005. This bill was reintroduced in the 110th Congress in the form of H.R. 4460. CBO estimated the cost to be $56 million, or $280 million over five years.

G. Repeal and Replace the Patient Protection and Affordability Care Act (PPACA):

“Congress needs to repeal Obamacare and enact free-market reforms that will preserve our freedom and drive down the costs that are breaking both government and business budgets.”

            Cost: Unknown.

Note: CBO failed to complete a comprehensive analysis of all the spending resulting from passage of H.R. 3590 (111th Congress), the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Among the known costs, including the changes in direct spending listed in a March 11, 2010 CBO letter, and the specified and certain estimated authorizations and implementation costs in a CBO letter on May 11, 2010, the law could increase spending by $88.679 billion over the FY 2011 to FY 2015 period. The bill also included unspecified spending authority that CBO has not estimated. It is unclear what specific programs Buck would implement in the place of PPACA.

H. Tort Reform:

“We have got to force the issue of tort reform on the Senate floor.” (min. 4:00)

Cost:  -$2.575 billion (-$10.3 billion over five years).

Source:  In a 2009 letter to Senator Orrin Hatch, CBO stated, “Tort reform could affect costs for health care both directly and indirectly: directly, by lowering premiums for medical liability insurance; and indirectly, by reducing the use of diagnostic tests and other health care services when providers recommend those services principally to reduce their potential exposure to lawsuits.”  The agency estimated potential savings of $10.3 billion over five years.

Homeland Security and Law Enforcement: $1.5 billion

A. Border Security:

“… [W]e have to secure the border to stop the flow of illegal immigration. It is essential to our security that we curb the number [of] undocumented immigrants coming into our country.”

“I think you need to secure the border first and then I think you need to work on a program to get people here more quickly… I don’t [think] the American people have any confidence that we can deal with that issue [of illegal immigrants already in the United States] until we secure the border…” (min. 0:03)

“We need to make sure that we secure the border by placing National Guard troops there, by placing more Border Patrol agents there, by making sure that the foreign aid that we give to Mexico is in some part used to help on that side of the border – that we’re not just doing the work on this side of the border.” (min. 13:10)

Cost: $1.5 billion ($3 billion over two years).

  • Border Fence: ($1.5 billion). Related legislation was introduced in the form of S. 2348 (110th Congress), the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2007. The text appropriates $3 billion for two years. Buck has not made specific plans or recommendations as to how to secure the border. However, in comparison with other sources and similar candidates, a border fence would be a traditional first step. Recent media reports cite $3 billion as a cost for a border fence. 
  • Border Personnel: (Unknown). In August 2010, President Obama signed H.R. 6080 (111th Congress), a bill making emergency supplemental appropriations for border security for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2010, and for other purposes. The bill increases funding for more agents and equipment along the Mexican border. Media reports cite $600 million as a total cost. It is unclear how much additional funding Buck would support beyond this level.

  • Mexican Aid Effectiveness: (Unknown). Buck is unclear how foreign aid to Mexico would be monitored and held accountable. According to the United States Aid and International Development program, Mexico received $28 million in FY 2010. According to the Budget of the U.S. Government, Fiscal Year 2011, Appendix, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) in the Department of State received $105 million in FY 2010. The Office of Inspections, the office charged, among other things, to investigate foreign assistance oversight, is included in the OIG. It is unclear how much additional funding Buck would support beyond this level.

B. Visa Reform:

We need to make sure we have a program that gets people into this country legally much more quickly than we do now, and in a verifiable way. So that we take some of the pressure off of that border…” (min. 13:10)

“… [W]e need to establish a program that will help make legal immigration a feasible option. This will allow legal immigrants to fill jobs that American labor cannot fill.”

            Cost: Unknown.

Note: Related legislation has been introduced in the form of S. 3901 (111th Congress), the Strengthening Our Commitment to Legal Immigration and America's Security Act. A cost estimate is currently unavailable.

National Security and International Relations: Unknown

A. Afghanistan:

“We have to be sure we have achievable goals and that we work to achieve those goals. I think there are three things we need to do: the first thing we need to do is make sure that Afghanistan is not a safe haven for terrorists, the second thing we need to do is disrupt and dismantle the drug trade in Afghanistan, and the third thing we need to do is to promote peace in Central Asia. When we achieve those goals, we should leave a minimal force in Afghanistan that has a relationship with the various tribes to make sure the Taliban can’t take over and create the kind of environment that it did for Al-Qaida… .” (10:20)

            Cost: Unknown.

Note: In September of 2010, CRS reported that cumulative war funding totals for Afghanistan since the 9/11 attacks stand at $336 billion.

Veterans: Unknown

A. Veterans Affairs Hospital Outsourcing:

“… I said if we could improve the quality and care for veterans by outsourcing some of the functions, such as running a Veterans Administration hospital, I would be in favor of doing that.” (min.4:30)

            Cost: Unknown.

Note: Buck is unclear about the size and scope of how veterans’ hospital administration or functions within those hospitals would be contracted to private or semi-private entities. S. 404 (111th Congress), the Veterans’ Emergency Care Fairness Act of 2009, would reimburse veterans for the cost of emergency care provided in a non-Department of Veterans Affairs facility. The measure would cost $5 million over five years.

Miscellaneous: Unknown

A. Social Security Reform:

“For current beneficiaries, the government has made a sacred promise. Current retirees have planned their lives based on these Social Security benefits and the government shouldn’t change those benefits. For older workers approaching retirement, we need to ensure that Social Security is solvent. We should consider pegging the retirement age to the fact that people are living longer, and we should consider means testing. For younger workers and future generations, I propose ‘Social Security Plus.’ Younger workers will know that Social Security is there for them as a safety net, but they should also be encouraged to save more through tax-preferred accounts.”

            Cost: Unknown.

  • Social Security Beneficiaries: (Unknown). Related legislation has been introduced in the form of S. 86 (111th Congress), the Social Security Lock-Box Act of 2009. The bill would require Social Security expenditures to equal or exceed yearly service cost requirements. A cost estimate is currently unavailable.
  • Reformed Retirement Age: (Unknown). Related legislation has been introduced in the form of S. 426 (111th Congress), the Social Security Solvency Act of 2009. The bill provides for a progressive indexing of old age insurance benefits. A cost estimate is unavailable.
  • Social Security Plus: (Unknown). Related legislation was introduced in the form of H.R. 1090 (110th Congress), the Social Security Guarantee Plus Act of 2007. The bill authorizes individuals 18 and over to enroll in a Social Security guarantee account, made up of refundable credits and interest. A cost estimate is unavailable.