(Alexandria, VA) -- As Montana Senate candidates Jon Tester and Conrad Burns court voters down the final campaign stretch, taxpayers can look to their 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 $88 billion separates the federal budget agendas of the candidates.
"Scripted debates 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 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 the Montana U.S. Senate race to gather information on proposals that could impact federal spending. He then verified these items against independent sources like the Congressional Budget Office. Brady also cross-checked items through NTUF's BillTally system, which since 1991 has computed a net annual agenda for Members of Congress based on their sponsorship of bills. Among the findings:
- State Senator Jon Tester has offered a total of 26 separate proposals that would affect federal spending, 9 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. If enacted simultaneously, these items would result in a net overall annual spending hike of $89.4 billion (16 provisions have an indeterminate price).
- Senator Conrad Burns's agenda of 11 budget-related items constitutes a net yearly spending increase of at least $1.2 billion, driven by his support for medical malpractice and health insurance reform that would result in $931 million of yearly taxpayer savings. Like Tester, Burns's blueprint has proposals whose cost cannot be identified (a total of 3), though Brady notes that 4 of Burns's 11 policies would drive outlays upward.
- Health care represented the largest spending category for Senator Tester, $64.5 billion or 72 percent of his total agenda. Burns's largest category was veterans care at $2.1 billion.
NTUF's analysis of the Montana candidates' agendas is one of several the group is conducting. Contests are being selected on factors such as geographic diversity, political significance based on outside groups and analysts, and the specificity in the candidates' platforms.
"This study shows that there are true fiscal distinctions between Senator Tester and Senator Burns over the size and distribution of the federal budget," Brady concluded. "The fiscal difference between the two candidates is the largest we've studied this cycle, and Montana voters ought to take a closer look at their platforms before Election Day."
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 Montana Senate candidates' spending agendas, and more information on BillTally, are both available online at www.ntu.org.