(Alexandria, Va.) -- Minnesota Senate candidates Norm Coleman and Al Franken have taken pains to contrast their styles of leadership, but what about the substance behind their platforms? The non-partisan National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) has some answers to this question, in a line-by-line analysis of Coleman's and Franken's federal budget proposals released today.
"It's said that campaign promises are made to be broken, but a candidate's words still provide powerful indicators of where he or she would steer the ship of state," NTUF Senior Policy Analyst Demian Brady said. "In the case of the Minnesota Senate contest, Norm Coleman and Al Franken appear to have charted measurably different courses for federal fiscal policy in years to come."
In preparing the study, NTUF reviewed the candidates' campaign Web sites and news reports to find any proposals that would impact the federal budget. Cost estimates come from a variety of independent sources, including Congressional Budget Office reports and data from NTUF's BillTally cost-accounting system, which since 1991 has computed a net annual agenda for each Member of Congress based on their sponsorship of bills. Among the findings:
- Norm Coleman has outlined a fiscal agenda that would in its entirety increase annual federal spending by a net of $2.07 billion. All told, he has offered 21 proposals that would affect the budget -- six of which would increase annual outlays, two of which would decrease expenditures, and 12 of which have unquantifiable fiscal effects (one had a neutral bill cost).
- Al Franken has proposed a budget blueprint whose overall effect would increase yearly expenditures by a net of $627.2 billion. His platform contains 50 identifiable budget-related items -- 18 of which would boost annual federal spending, two of which would cut it, and 29 of which have costs that could not be calculated (one bill had a neutral cost).
- Among the proposals Coleman has made with the biggest change spending are a "refundable" health insurance tax credit (which results in budget outlays) at $2.9 billion annually and creation of a Health Information Technology initiative ($75 million). He offered savings through medical liability reform (-$890 million) and a Congressional pay freeze (-$2 million). Several "cost unknown" items, such as increased health research and school lunch funding, could add considerably to Coleman's total depending upon how they would be enacted.
- By far the largest impact from Franken's proposals would come from his plan to introduce a single- payer health care system in the U.S. -- which carries a cost of $527.7 billion annually. Another large item, creating a "401(U)" retirement system with government contributions to worker accounts, is estimated to increase spending by $63.9 billion. Proposals that could be demonstrated to have budget savings were reforms to farm subsidies (-$169 million) and allowing reimportation of prescription drugs (-$540 million).
The Minnesota Senate race is one of several that NTUF is analyzing, including Nebraska and New Mexico. Contests were selected on factors such as geographic diversity and perceived political significance. NTUF is the research arm of the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union, a nonprofit, nonpartisan citizen group founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, smaller government, and economic freedom at all levels. Note: The full candidate studies are available at www.ntu.org.