Senate Candidate Agenda Analysis: Susan Collins

Yesterday, NTUF released the latest analysis in our ongoing study of key Senate races, this time featuring Shenna Bellows, the Democratic candidate running in Maine. Our research compiles a list of all the policy proposals from candidates’ campaign websites, debates, and interviews that could, if enacted via legislation, impact federal spending. We then match those quotes with cost estimates for existing legislation from our BillTally database and other reports in order to offer taxpayers a unique look at how each candidate’s promises could affect the budget.

As NTUF’s Dan Barrett wrote, Bellows – a former Director with the ACLU and AmeriCorps volunteer – is campaigning on an extensive agenda in her bid to represent Maine in the U.S. Senate. All told, Bellows’ scorable proposals would increase spending by about $1.38 trillion per year if enacted.

She is challenging Republican incumbent Susan Collins, who has outlined some general policy goals on her website and throughout the course of the campaign, but not in nearly enough detail for NTUF to offer a meaningful cost estimate for her agenda.

Thanks to our BillTally system, though, we can reference some of Senator Collins’ legislative history to put some of her campaign agenda items in context. BillTally is a comprehensive review of all legislation as it’s introduced in Congress. NTUF scores every bill according to data from the Congressional Budget Office, the federal budget, and other independent, third party sources; by matching those cost estimates to each Member’s sponsorship and cosponsorship record, we can offer a unique look at how the bills each Member supports would increase or decrease federal spending.

In the first session of the 113th Congress, Senator Susan Collins supported legislation that would increase spending by $15.455 billion, and decrease it by $95.465 billion. On net, that means if all the bills she sponsored or cosponsored were enacted, federal spending would decrease by $80.01 billion per year.

  • Largest Net Increase: Senator Collins was a cosponsor of S. 896, the Social Security Fairness Act. It would repeal government pension offset provisions that often reduce Social Security payments to former government employees. Doing so would increase spending by $9 billion per year.
  • Largest Net Decrease: The Senator also supported S. 177, a bill to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). NTUF determined that undoing the President’s signature health care law would save $63.9 billion per year.

Senator Collins’ record in the first session of the 113th Congress showed a particular focus on health care-related issues: in addition to her support for repealing ACA, she sponsored bills to reverse specific portions of the law (including the individual and employer mandates, and the Independent Payment Advisory Board); several bills to expand federal funding for mental health services; and funding to provide medical research grants.

Unfortunately for taxpayers, the lack of specific information offered by Senator Collins and her campaign reflects an ongoing trend we’ve observed as we put together our candidate studies. For instance, even though we were able to score some of Shenna Bellows’ proposals, she still left taxpayers largely in the dark when it comes to the true price of her agenda: 34 of the 47 items we identified as potential costs or savings were too vague to estimate.

While we can offer voters in Maine some basic analysis of each Senatorial candidate's proposals, one thing is clear - the full extent of their fiscal implications will remain unknown, at least until the 114th Congress convenes.