(Alexandria, VA) – Thanks mostly to her support for a “single-payer” health care system, Tammy Baldwin’s and Tommy Thompson’s federal budget blueprints stand almost $1.3 trillion apart. That’s the conclusion from National Taxpayers Union Foundation’s (NTUF’s) detailed examination of the two Wisconsin Senate candidates’ platforms. According to NTUF’s research, Baldwin has offered proposals whose net impact would boost federal expenditures by $1.16 trillion; Thompson’s budget-related items would, combined, shrink outlays by $129.2 billion.
“It’s often been said that deeds matter more than words, but what the candidates say can add up to billions of spending or savings in the federal budget,” said NTUF Director of Research Demian Brady. “Our methodical analysis of campaign promises provides vital clues to the real-dollar impact a candidate hopes to have on fiscal policy once in office.” Among NTUF’s findings:
- NTUF identified 16 of Tammy Baldwin’s proposals as affecting federal expenditures: seven would increase outlays, none would reduce them, and nine have costs or savings that were impossible to accurately determine. The combined effect of these 16 items would be to raise federal spending by $1.16 trillion – the equivalent of making Washington’s current budget nearly one-third larger.
- By far the single biggest element in Baldwin’s platform comes from her statement that she’s a “bold progressive unafraid to call for single-payer health care.” A bill to achieve this goal, which Baldwin has cosponsored, carries a net $1.157 trillion annual price tag (after subtracting associated savings and current budgetary allotments for health care). That is according to supporters’ own estimates.
- Tommy Thompson’s platform would, in its entirety, produce a net annual savings of $129.207 billion. NTUF found 22 proposals he made with a spending effect: four to raise expenditures, five to lower them, and 13 without quantifiable estimates of costs or savings.
- Most of the spending reductions in Thompson’s agenda are attributable to his support for repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (-$63.9 billion) and for an “across-the-board” reduction in all federal agencies’ budgets of 5 percent ($-62.225 billion). On the spending-increase side of the ledger, Thompson is proposing a joint federal-state health insurance coverage initiative involving high-risk pools; a partial price tag for this plan, in the form of similar legislation in Congress, is $833 million annually.
Unfortunately, NTUF could not provide reasonably precise cost or savings estimates for the majority of either candidate’s budget proposals due to their lack of detail. For example, Baldwin seeks to “reduce spending” by “bringing our troops home from Afghanistan,” but savings from legislation to accelerate the President’s current timetable for drawing down military forces from that country (by 2014) are indeterminate. Thompson calls for new tax credits to offset costs of employer health coverage, but fails to explain whether the credits would be “refundable” (i.e., in excess of actual tax liability). Federal budget agencies classify the refundable portion of a tax credit as an outlay.
“Serious discussions of budgetary issues deserve equally serious evaluations of how those issues would affect the taxpayers’ bottom line,” Brady concluded. “Although our studies provide as in-depth a look as possible at the candidates’ budget agendas, many Wisconsinites will be left longing for more specifics from those who hope to represent them in Washington.”
In preparing their analysis, Brady and his colleague, NTUF Research and Outreach Manager Dan Barrett, utilized campaign websites, transcripts of debates, and news sources to gather information on any proposals from the two leading Wisconsin Senate contenders that could impact the level of federal spending. They in turn verified cost estimates for these items against independent sources such as the Congressional Budget Office. They 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.
NTUF’s analysis of the Wisconsin candidates’ agendas is one of several the organization is currently conducting. Contests are being selected on factors such as geographic diversity, political significance as rated by outside groups and experts, and the level of specificity in the candidates’ platforms. Studies have been conducted for the Ohio and Virginia U.S. Senate races so far as well.
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 analysis of the Wisconsin and other Senate candidates’ spending agendas, along with more information on BillTally, are available online at ntu.org.