***This is the fifth of several communications to the Senate NTU intends to make during the course of the budget debate. ***
NTU urges all Senators to vote “NO” on S. Con. Res. 11, the Concurrent Budget Resolution for Fiscal Year 2016. In resorting to gimmicks to address of fiscal irresponsibility, this budget falls short of the restraint taxpayers need.
When evaluating the competing budget resolutions for Fiscal Year 2016, NTU considered several priorities, among them: repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, reforming the tax system, and complying with the Budget Control Act (BCA). NTU gave strongest consideration to the short-term fiscal policies over which this current Congress – and the budget resolution it ultimately adopts – would have most control. So far, the BCA has helped to restrain spending growth and reduce deficits, which are slated to rise again in 2017 unless further action is taken. Because budgets are non-binding, the reconciliation language and top-line spending numbers are of utmost importance to taxpayers.
To this degree, the Senate budget succeeds in part by maintaining the BCA caps through 2021, with a modest boost thereafter. It contains a reserve fund for tax reform, reconciliation language to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and it balances in ten years.
However, the resolution is not without its drawbacks: a deficit neutral reserve fund for transportation could open the door to an increased gas tax and revenues from the ACA tax hikes remain in the baseline despite the avowed goal of repeal. Of grave concern is another deficit neutral reserve fund to “Strengthen America’s Priorities” with vague language that could set the stage for increased Pentagon spending. This would require legislation to repeal or once again modify BCA, increasing the risk to taxpayers of tax hikes, more unaffordable spending, and more debt.
Also troubling, is the enormous boost (from $58 billion to $96 billion) that the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account received during the Senate Budget Committee mark-up – far above the Pentagon’s original request. To put this in context, in terms of discretionary funding, this bloated OCO would be the second largest stand-alone agency (after the Department of Defense). This dramatic increase to $96 billion lacks sufficient strategic rationalization. It is unclear how these dollars will be spent, further perpetuating the problematic accounting that comes from relying on OCO to avoid the tough spending decisions necessary to restore fiscal responsibility in the Pentagon.
Most importantly, however, such large recommended boosts in one area of federal outlays inevitably invite spending hikes elsewhere. Some self-described conservatives have even indicated a willingness to contemplate tax increases in exchange for higher Pentagon spending. Economically destructive, Keynesian tactics such as these must be avoided, and are the very reason why BCA was designed to apply so broadly.
It is vital that Congress continues to exercise the beneficial managerial discipline that BCA encourages, in order to ensure we have the balance-sheet latitude and institutional habit to tackle the increasingly urgent and more challenging fiscal problems to come. Gimmicks that violate the intention of the BCA caps make future restraint harder to achieve.
To that end, we also urge Senators not to vote for any amendment that would in any way alter the Budget Point of Order in the underlying bill requiring 60 votes to increase OCO funding above the original $58 billion. Removing or amending this important procedure raises the potential that taxpayers will be stuck with higher levels of spending in what is increasingly becoming a permanent slush fund.
While it should be the goal of Congress to pass an annual budget, there are instances where taxpayers are better off under no budget than a bad one. Finally, we must once again remind lawmakers that regardless of their stance on increased defense expenditures, circumventing spending caps in one category will only invite mischief across the entire budget. We must urge Senators to vote “NO” on S. Con. Res. 11.
Roll call votes on S. Con. Res. 11, the Budget Resolution, will be significantly weighted in our annual Rating of Congress and a “NO” vote will be considered the pro-taxpayer position.
If you have any questions, please contact NTU Federal Affairs Manager Nan Swift (703) 683-5700