Giannoulias's, Kirk's, Federal Budget Plans Boost Spending by Different Degrees, Analysis of Campaign Platforms Shows

(Alexandria, VA) – Illinois Senate candidates Alexi Giannoulias and Mark Kirk have outlined different priorities for the federal budget, but their campaign agendas do share one overall attribute – higher expenditures, although by varying amounts. According to a line-by-line analysis from the non-partisan National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF), Giannoulias’s campaign platform would increase Washington’s current outlays by over $76 billion, while Kirk would raise spending by slightly more than $700 million. However, both candidates have made proposals whose costs or savings are impossible to calculate.

To view Giannoulias's spending analysis in its entirety, click here.

To view Kirk's spending analysis in its entirety, click here.

“Both the front-running candidates for the Illinois’ Senate seat have made specific campaign promises, but it appears they have been less clear on the specific impact their plans would have on the size of the federal budget,” NTUF Director of Congressional Analysis Jeff Dircksen stated. “NTUF’s analysis is designed to help fill this critical information gap.”

In preparing his analysis, Dircksen utilized campaign websites, transcripts of debates, and news sources to gather information on any proposals from the two leading Illinois Senate race contenders that could impact the level of federal spending. He in turn verified cost estimates for these items against independent sources such as the Congressional Budget Office. He also cross-checked items through NTUF’s BillTally system, which since 1991 has computed agenda costs for each Member of Congress based on their sponsorship of bills. Among the findings:

  • Taken together Alexi Giannoulias’s campaign promises would increase annual federal spending by a net of $76.278 billion. Of Giannoulias’s 55 proposals NTUF identified as affecting federal expenditures, 23 would increase outlays, two would reduce them, and 30 have costs or savings that were impossible to accurately determine.
  • To date, Mark Kirk’s platform would, in its entirety, nudge the federal budget upward by $730 million annually. NTUF found 28 proposals he made with a spending effect: nine to raise expenditures, one to lower them, and 18 without quantifiable estimates of costs or savings.
  • Major items in Giannoulias’s fiscal platform include an estimated $51.54 billion for a “cap-and-trade” carbon regulation/renewable energy spending plan, $4.591 billion to boost federal research and development funding, and $4.5 billion for a new “National Infrastructure Fund.” One proposal he made to reduce outlays, by $3 million in one year, would cancel increases in federal lawmakers’ pay until federal deficits are addressed.
  • Kirk’s agenda features higher funding for airports ($2.776 billion annually), as well as environmental cleanup and revitalization for the city of Rockford ($373 million). These and other spending items were partially offset by the budget savings ($2.575 billion) from medical liability reforms.
  • Both candidates had large proposals whose costs could not be readily tabulated. Giannoulias, for example, called for creating a small business loan fund from monies returned to the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), but the recently passed financial reform bill forbids such transfers from TARP. He also supports a form of line-item veto authority for the Executive Branch, which could lead to substantial but indeterminate savings.  These savings depend upon the President’s inclination to use the power and Congress’s decisions to sustain the vetoes. Like Giannoulias, Kirk called for increases in federal research funding; but unlike his opponent, Kirk did not elaborate on which legislation he might back to do so. Kirk also urged the expansion of certain export promotion programs, but did not provide an indication of how much additional funding he would support.

“As candidates pile on the campaign promises in hopes of coming out on top, it can be easy to forget that their plans often substantially change the bottom line of the federal budget,” Dircksen concluded. “NTUF’s studies attempt to quantify these effects and inform the debate.”

NTUF’s analysis of the Illinois candidates’ agendas is one of several the group is currently conducting. Contests are being selected on factors such as geographic diversity, political significance as rated by outside groups and analysts, and the level of specificity in the candidates’ platforms.

NTUF is the research and educational arm of the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union, a non-profit citizen group. Note: The line-by-line cost analyses of the Illinois and other Senate candidates’ spending agendas, along with more information on BillTally, are available online at