(Alexandria, VA) -- As Michigan Senate candidates Debbie Stabenow and Michael Bouchard attempt to define their differences to voters, taxpayers can look to their campaign platforms for real distinctions: that's the assessment of a study released today by the non-partisan National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF), which found that roughly $42 billion separates the federal budget platforms of the two hopefuls.
"Stump speeches and political platitudes abound during most campaigns, but voters still care about the bottom line, their tax dollars," said NTUF Senior Policy Analyst and study author Demian Brady. "Now citizens have hard data, not just political hyperbole, to evaluate the candidates' stances on federal spending."
In preparing his analysis, Brady used the campaign websites and news reports of the two leading contenders in Michigan U.S. Senate race to glean information on any proposals that could impact the level of federal spending. He in turn verified these items against independent sources such as the Congressional Budget Office. Brady also cross-checked items through NTUF's BillTally system, which since 1991 has computed a net annual agenda for each Member of Congress based on their sponsorship of bills. Among the findings:
- Senator Debbie Stabenow has offered a total of 18 separate proposals that would affect federal spending, 11 of which would raise federal outlays and only 1 of which would reduce them: a bill to re-import prescription drugs from Canada that the government scores as a $220 million savings, or $1.2 billion over 5 years. If enacted all at once, these items would result in a net overall annual spending hike of $41 billion (6 provisions have an indeterminate price tag).
- Former Sheriff Michael Bouchard's agenda of 12 budget-related items constitutes a net yearly spending decrease of at least $1.2 billion, driven by his support for medical malpractice reform that would result in $890 million of yearly taxpayer savings. Like Stabenow, Bouchard's blueprint has 5 proposals whose cost cannot be identified, although Brady notes that 5 of Bouchard's 12 policies would have the effect of driving outlays upward.
- In comparison, during the First Session of the 109th Congress NTUF's BillTally system determined that the annual spending-increase agenda of the average Senate Democrat was $52.1 billion, vs. $11.3 billion for the typical Republican.
- Health care represented the largest spending category for Senator Stabenow, $31 billion or 76 percent of her total agenda. Bouchard's largest category was homeland defense at $9 million.
NTUF's analysis of the Michigan 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.
"This study shows that there are glaring differences between Senator Stabenow and Michael Bouchard over the size and allocation of the federal budget," Brady concluded. "Bouchard's agenda is one of the few we have studied this year that would lead to a net reduction in federal spending, a goal candidates across the country rarely espouse."
NTUF is the research and educational arm of the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union, a non-profit citizen group. Note: The line-by-line cost analysis of the Michigan Senate candidates' spending agendas, and more information on BillTally, are both available online at www.ntu.org.