On Thursday, NTUF released an analysis of the campaign agendas put forth by the candidates in the Kansas Senatorial race. It’s the latest in our ongoing effort to cut through the election season rhetoric and offer taxpayers hard numbers to go along with each candidate’s statements. In Kansas, we found that the policies supported by Independent candidate Greg Orman would increase federal spending by $4.79 billion per year if enacted.
Orman is a businessman and entrepreneur who was born and raised in Minnesota. He graduated with a degree in economics from Princeton University; while there, he was a member of the College Republicans club and worked on the campaign for George H. W. Bush’s presidential bid. He went on to work for a consulting firm before founding his own company, Environmental Light Concepts, which develops energy-efficient lighting fixtures. He has been a member of both the Democratic and Republican parties, but is currently running for Senate as an independent.
NTUF has been scoring campaign agendas for over ten years now. We sift through each candidate’s campaign websites, interviews, and debate performances to compile a list of all the policies that they woud support and could impact federal spending. We then match those items with cost estimates for similar legislation in our BillTally project – the nation’s only comprehensive look at every piece of legislation as introduced in Congress – and other independent sources, like the Congressional Budget Office, to show taxpayers how the candidates’ promises would affect the budget.
The data for Orman’s campaign, in annualized dollars:
- Gross Spending Increase: $4.79 billion
- Number of Increase Proposals: 4
- Gross Spending Decrease: N/A
- Number of Decrease Proposals: 0
- Net Proposed Spending Agenda: $4.79 billion
- Change in the Projected FY 2015 Budget Deficit ($469 billion): +1.02%
- Number of Unknown-Cost Proposals: 21
- Total Number of Proposals: 25
NTUF was able to score four of Mr. Orman’s proposals, all of which would increase federal spending if enacted. The most consequential of these would be his commitment to securing the border, which he described as “a policy that’s tough, practical, and fair.” The border security provisions in the Senate’s 2013 immigration reform bill, S. 744, would increase outlays by $18.4 billion over the first five years, according to a CBO cost estimate.
Mr. Orman has also advocated for exploring border security and surveillance technology that could eventually serve as a “virtual fence” in lieu of more border patrol officers. While it’s unclear what that might cost today, the Department of Homeland Security had to abandon a similar project in 2007 due to numerous delays and cost overruns (at the project’s proposal, it was estimated to require about $7 billion in funding).
Orman’s other spending increase proposals included expanding vocational education options ($930 million per year), requiring greater disclosure of political donations, and improving documentation of illegal immigrants.
NTUF noted 25 statements from Orman and his campaign that could lead to budgetary changes, but could not definitively score any of them as net spending cuts. This is not to say that he would not support any decreases at all, but due to a lack of specificity or reliable estimates, we were unable to identify any within his agenda.
Mr. Orman did voice support for ending Congressional pensions, a proposal that might reduce spending by as much as $36 billion based on current data, but we were unable to determine future savings that might result. He has also pledged to pursue tax reform by simplifying the current system, which could significantly cut spending, but NTUF could not identify which (if any) of the current reforms being debated in Congress he would support.
Unknown Cost Items
Unfortunately, the vast majority of Mr. Orman’s agenda was too vague to quantify in our analysis. There were 21 out of a total 25 items for which we could not obtain a cost estimate. That trend has been is becoming increasingly common in races across the country (especially in close elections and among incumbent candidates), and it’s to the detriment of taxpayers who are concerned with federal spending and how their representatives in Congress might vote in Washington.
Although we weren’t able to score all of his agenda items, some have a potential to significantly impact the budget. For instance, his support for developing various forms of renewable energy could increase spending by a few million dollars, or many billions, depending on the extent to which he would support financing above and beyond current levels. Some of the tax reform proposals he might support, like Rep. Dave Camp’s comprehensive legislation, also include over $100 billion in infrastructure spending. And relaxing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulations, as he has urged during the campaign, might reduce federal spending by as much as $21.5 billion.
To help taxpayers get a full picture of Orman’s agenda, I have five questions for him:
- Concerning your proposal to relax some regulations for community and regional banks, is it your intention to have corresponding cuts in federal regulatory enforcement spending as these rules are rolled back?
- Do you favor a bill currently introduced in the 113th Congress that would fulfill your need to reform the student loan system?
- Exactly what policies would you support when considering ways to encourage and/or provide for agricultural innovation?
- Through what means do you propose to invest tax dollars into both alternative and traditional energy sources? Currently, there are tax credits, loans, loan guarantees, and grants available to a variety of energy producers.
- Would you vote in favor of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act as passed in the Senate? If not, please provide details as to what parts you favor.
To learn more about the Senate race in Kansas, check out NTUF’s Election 2014 resources: