Foundation

Study: Bush Proposes $134.6 Billion Spending Boost in State of Union Speech; Largest in His Tenure

by Pete Sepp / /

(Alexandria, VA) -- A large request for additional military funding pushed the total amount of new spending proposed last night in George W. Bush's State of the Union address to over $134 billion - the biggest single-year amount of his Presidency, according to a line-by-line analysis conducted by the National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF). The study, NTUF's ninth examination of these Presidential speeches, also found Bush is advocating the third-highest non-military spending hike of his two terms.

"After several years of making relatively modest fiscal recommendations in his State of the Union address, President Bush's speech last night seemed to suggest his 'legacy year' could involve significantly bigger outlays," said NTUF Senior Policy Analyst Demian Brady. Among the findings:

  • President Bush outlined items whose enactment would increase federal spending by a net of $134.6 billion per year -- about 10 times higher than what he called for in 2004, 2005, or 2007. This makes his 2008 spending agenda the largest in his Presidency. Bush's lowest total, in 2006, was a scant $91 million. The highest overall level NTUF ever reported for this nine-year project was in Bill Clinton's 1999 speech ($305 billion).
  • Of the 23 items with a possibly quantifiable budget impact that NTUF identified in Bush's speech, 12 would increase federal spending while three would reduce outlays. The remaining eight items, which mentioned policy initiatives with a currently unpredictable cost, could have sizeable budget impacts (such as increased use of renewable energy and nuclear power).
  • The single largest spending hike Bush offered last night was in connection with "fully funding our troops" -- at $109.4 billion. Bush's HIV/AIDS initiative ranked a distant second in cost ($6 billion).
  • Even though military policy comprises 80 percent of the cost behind the agenda Bush described, his non-defense/non-homeland security proposals would still add up to nearly $25 billion - the third-highest in Bush's seven State of the Union Addresses and the highest in his past five speeches.

Brady noted that Bush's biggest spending-cut item -- $18 billion from reductions or eliminations in 151 programs -- will be a part of the budget he will submit to Congress next week. Historically, these recommendations have met with stiff resistance from lawmakers. In addition, Brady spotted several other proposals that have appeared in past Bush speeches yet have not been adopted, including medical liability reform and increased incentives to allow individuals to purchase health coverage outside their jobs.

"Taxpayers hoping to see significant reductions in outlays over the next 12 months may have to look beyond the cost-specific items in the President's speech," Brady concluded. "Instead, they may have to focus on his pledge to nullify many earmarks and issue vetoes on Fiscal Year 2009 bills that exceed his request - both ambitious goals in a town where special interests often prevail in setting spending levels."

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 nonpartisan research affiliate of the 362,000-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.

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