Taxpayer's Tab: $129 Billion Budget Impact Separates Ernst, Braley Platforms

Special Election Coverage of the Iowa Senate Race
Vol. 5 Issue 37, October 16, 2014

$129 Billion Budget Impact Separates Ernst, Braley Platforms in Iowa Senate Showdown

Yesterday, the National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) released a new candidate agenda analysis, revealing the hard numbers behind the campaign rhetoric in Iowa's hotly contested Senate race between State Senator Joni Ernst and Congressman Bruce Braley. The findings show that over $128.9 billion in annual spending separates their agendas.

According to our research, Joni Ernst has outlined policies that would, on net, cut $87.1 billion from the federal budget each year; whereas her opponent Bruce Braley has voiced support for measures that would increase annual spending by $41.9 billion.

All proposals made on the campaign trail – whether on candidates’ websites or in public debates – that could have fiscal policy implications are considered in the analysis, though only those that can be accurately quantified are included in NTUF's bottom-line agenda estimates. There were 17 statements or proposals whose costs could not be tallied out of 30 total that were examined.

State Senator Joni ErnstState Senator Joni Ernst has proposed 18 total budget-influencing measures, of which five would decrease and three would increase federal spending. Ten of her measures were not specific enough to be scored. If she wins the election and her policies are enacted, taxpayers would see the federal budget shrink by $87.1 billion per year. Other findings include:

  • Her largest cut item is to repeal the Affordable Care Act for an annual savings of $63.9 billion.
  • Of her three increase proposals, the largest is to further secure the border and establish a guest-worker program at a cost of $4.0 billion per year.
  • One of the measures that might have the largest budgetary impact, but was too broad to be scored, was her idea to reform Social Security, possibly involving privatized accounts for younger workers. The dollar implications could be in the billions.
Congressman Bruce BraleyCongressman Bruce Braley has 12 agenda items in his platform that could change spending if he is sworn in as Iowa's next Senator. While NTUF was unable to score seven proposals, five were matched to current legislation he has sponsored as well as budgetary data. The federal budget would grow by $41.9 billion annually in the event these five polices are enacted.

Highlights include:
  • His largest increase item is to pass comprehensive immigration reform at a $19.4 billion yearly cost.
  • Though a number of his proposals could reduce spending (such as permitting the Medicare program to negotiate drug prices), NTUF could not match them with budget figures.
  • Among the unknown cost items, the largest possible fiscal impact is combating climate change, which could take the form of a new trillion-dollar carbon tax or a billion-dollar cap-and-trade system.
Both candidates backed action against the Islamic State, the cost of which could not be quantified at this time. They also both spoke generally about less federal involvement in the administration of marijuana laws, which could in theory lead to savings in drug enforcement.
"Our analysis shows a significant divide between State Senator Joni Ernst and Congressman Braley on how best to steer the federal budget," said NTUF Research and Outreach Manager Dan Barrett. "Despite a growing trend of candidates across the country being more vague than ever about their policy goals, in the Hawkeye State we found enough substance to calculate agendas that are strong indicators of what Iowa's next Senator will aim to do in Washington."

National Taxpayers Union Foundation is a nonpartisan research and educational organization dedicated to helping Americans of all ages understand how taxes, government spending, and regulations affect them. Through our timely information, analysis, and commentary, we’re empowering citizens to engage in important policy debates and hold officials accountable.

Our findings are provided for educational purposes only and are not intended to aid or hinder the passage of legislation or as a comment on any Member’s or Candidate's fitness to serve.   Photo Credits: Wiki Commons