Over $100 Billion Separates Federal Budget Agendas of Pennsylvania Senate Candidates, Study Finds

(Alexandria, VA) – As Pennsylvania Senate candidates Pat Toomey and Joe Sestak try to define their differences to voters, at least one difference can be measured in dollars and cents: according to a line-by-line analysis from the non-partisan National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF), many tax dollars separate the federal budget platforms of the two hopefuls. Sestak would boost outlays by just over $100 billion, while Toomey would cut them by about $2.5 billion, though both have made many campaign promises whose costs or savings are unknown.

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

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

“Given the current economic and fiscal picture, how candidates would address future government spending problems occupies a larger role in Congressional campaigns than most other issues,” said NTUF’s Director of Congressional Analysis and study author Jeff Dircksen. “For this reason, sorting rhetoric from reality and putting price tags on promises is vital.”

In preparing his analysis, Dircksen utilized campaign websites, transcripts of debates, and news sources to gather information on any proposals from the two leading Pennsylvania 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:

  • Joe Sestak’s campaign promises to date would increase annual federal spending by a net of $100.062 billion. Of Sestak’s 48 proposals NTUF identified as affecting federal expenditures, 20 would increase outlays, one would reduce them, and 27 have costs or savings that were impossible to accurately determine.
  • Pat Toomey’s platform would, in its entirety, produce a net annual savings of $2.509 billion in the federal budget. However, NTUF could only find nine proposals he made with a spending effect: four to raise expenditures, one to lower them, and four without quantifiable estimates of cost or savings.
  • Major items in Sestak’s fiscal platform include an estimated $51.54 billion for a green jobs and technology program (with a cap-and-trade system), $18.7 billion for a new housing/economic recovery plan, and a $10 billion school infrastructure initiative.
  • Elements in Toomey’s agenda include allowing individuals to purchase health insurance across state lines ($56 million) and lawsuit reform (which the Congressional Budget Office estimated at an annualized savings of $2.575 billion).
  • Both candidates had significant proposals whose costs could not be readily tabulated. Sestak, for example, called for renewed efforts to reduce waste, fraud, and abuse in Medicare as well as military contracting. Some budget savings are likely, but would vary widely depending on the scale of the reforms. Toomey’s proposal to equalize tax treatment of health insurance benefits could increase outlays if “refundable” credits or subsidies are offered, but his plan lacks details needed to make a calculation.

“Public officials often discuss the benefits of their proposals without providing the context citizens need to weigh the costs,” Dircksen concluded. “With a nation that faces a $13 trillion national debt, and one that faces difficult choices over how much higher that figure will go, NTUF’s analysis provides vital clues to where candidates would take the nation’s finances.”

NTUF’s analysis of the Pennsylvania 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 analysis of the Pennsylvania Senate candidates’ spending agendas, and more information on BillTally, are both available online at www.ntu.org.