Study: Buck's, Bennet's Federal Budget Plans Affect Spending At Margins, but Many Unknowns Remain

(Alexandria, VA) – Colorado Senate candidates Michael Bennet and Ken Buck have made much of each other’s words during their campaigns, but what meaning will those words have after the election, when next year’s budget is debated? According to the National Taxpayers Union Foundation’s (NTUF’s) line-by-line analysis, Bennet’s promises would amount to a federal spending increase of just over $7 billion, while Buck’s platform would amount to a cut in outlays of more than $1 billion. However, both candidates made many proposals whose costs or savings are impossible to calculate but could have a substantial impact.

To view Bennet's analysis in full, click here.

To view Buck's analysis in full, click here.

“To hear them tell it, just about every federal candidate would make major positive changes to the federal budget, but rhetoric often collides with reality,” NTUF Senior Policy Analyst Demian Brady stated. “NTUF’s issue-based studies provide citizens with some answers – and often more questions to ask – about the costs and benefits of the candidates’ proposals.”

In preparing his analysis, Brady and his colleague, NTUF Policy Analyst Dan Barrett, utilized campaign websites, transcripts of debates, and news sources to gather information on any proposals from the two leading Colorado 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:

  • All told, Michael Bennet’s campaign agenda would boost federal expenditures by $7.345 billion. Of Bennet’s 34 proposals NTUF identified as affecting federal expenditures, 13 would increase outlays, none would reduce them, and 21 have costs or savings that were impossible to accurately determine.
  • Ken Buck’s platform would, in its entirety, tip the budget downward by $1.405 billion annually. NTUF found 19 proposals with a spending effect: one to raise expenditures, two to lower them, and 16 without quantifiable estimates of costs or savings.
  • When measured against total federal outlays in Fiscal Year 2010 of more than $3.5 trillion, neither candidate would affect the budget by more than a fraction of a percent.
  • Major items in Bennet’s fiscal plan include an estimated $3.66 billion for an alternative fuel vehicle program, $2.704 billion for service members to collect retirement and disability pay concurrently, and $567 million for energy-efficiency incentives.
  • Buck’s agenda contains a border-security initiative ($1.5 billion), medical liability reform (savings of $2.575 billion), and an energy exploration and development program (savings of $330 million).
  • The aggregate cost difference between the platforms is the smallest NTUF has observed among the Senate contests it has studied (California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, and Pennsylvania). However, both candidates (especially Buck) had large proposals whose costs could not be readily tabulated. Bennet, for example, called for a carbon-emission trading program without committing to existing “cap-and-trade” legislation that has been estimated to cost tens of billions of dollars annually. Buck proposed major changes to Social Security and Medicare that were still too vague to “cost out.”

“Long after the sloganeering has faded away, the issues discussed in campaigns will have an impact on taxpayers,” Brady concluded. “The national conversation over the size of the federal budget will continue, as will NTUF’s efforts to inform it.”

NTUF’s analysis of the Colorado 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 analyses of the Colorado and other Senate candidates’ spending agendas, along with more information on BillTally, are available online at