(Alexandria, VA) -- More bountiful defense budget increases and scarcer spending cuts pushed the yearly price tag of President Bush's State of the Union proposals past $12 billion, according to the National Taxpayers Union Foundation's (NTUF's) popular and annually updated analysis. NTUF's 2007 study, the eighth such examination of the Presidential addresses, found that Bush's agenda is far more expensive than the one he proposed in 2006 -- but fairly close to the average over the past four years.
"The President may have staked out a bold health care reform plan last night, but several other items in his speech should look familiar to taxpayers," said NTUF Senior Policy Analyst Demian Brady. Among the findings:
- President Bush outlined items whose enactment would increase federal spending by a net of $12.4 billion per year, much higher than the record-low $91 million he advocated in 2006. However, in 2004 and 2005, the State of the Union agenda costs were closer to this year's, at $13.6 billion and $12.8 billion, respectively. The highest overall level NTUF reported was in Bill Clinton's 1999 speech ($305 billion).
- Of the items with a possibly quantifiable budget impact that NTUF identified in Bush's speech, seven would increase federal spending while one would reduce outlays (an additional three items mentioned policy initiatives with a currently unpredictable cost).
- The single largest spending hike Bush offered last night was in connection with increasing the size of the Army and Marine Corps -- with higher outlays averaging $8.9 billion per year. This is the first year since 2003 that Bush has called for a specific military funding increase in his State of the Union speech.
- Energy policy loomed large, with $3.3 billion to double the Strategic Petroleum Reserve's capacity.
- Bush also reiterated issues that have appeared in numerous past addresses, including medical liability reform, health care information technology, and more alternative energy research. The latter cause received large spending increases in the 2005 Energy Bill. Subsidies for existing ethanol (as opposed to new potential sources such as switchgrass) already cost taxpayers roughly $2 billion per year.
Brady noted that several of the "cost unknown" items could add significantly to the net total spending increase Bush proposed last night. The President's pleas to "save Social Security" and "fix Medicare and Medicaid" could lead to huge additional taxpayer liabilities depending upon how the White House and Congress hammer out a specific package of reforms. He also observed that recent Presidential addresses have tended to shy away from reciting laundry lists of spending items that later surface in the Administration's formal budget blueprint.
"In Washington, the old saying 'money talks' is often turned upside down," Brady concluded. "If talk does indeed mean money in this town, the conversation between the President and Congress has only begun. And, taxpayers will be waiting to hear whether more of their money will be spent or saved in this year's budget process."
Since 1991, NTUF has tracked the fiscal impact of proposed legislation through BillTally, an accounting database that reports the "net annual agenda cost" for each Member of Congress based on sponsorships and cosponsorships of pending legislation. For this analysis, NTUF matched Bush's proposals with those in the BillTally system and in White House and news media documents.
NTUF is the research affiliate of the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union, a non-profit citizen group founded in 1969. Note: A chart of the costs of President Bush's State of the Union proposals and a graphic comparison to previous speeches are available at www.ntu.org.