NTU urges all Members to vote “NO” on the Conference report to S. Con. Res. 11, the Concurrent Budget Resolution for Fiscal Year 2016. Despite some desirable features and laudable long-term goals, this budget relies on gimmicks to circumvent budget caps and falls short of the fiscal restraint taxpayers need.
Since its passage in 2011, the Budget Control Act (BCA) has helped to restrain spending growth and reduce deficits. While this budget resolution contains many provisions, in the intermediate term (where legislation such as this has a more palpable impact) keeping the BCA spending caps in place is of utmost importance to taxpayers. On this matter, the budget resolution succeeds only in part by appearing to maintain the BCA caps through 2021, with a modest boost thereafter.
However, this is misleading. The budget calls for an enormous increase (from $58 billion to $96 billion) for the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account – far above the Pentagon’s original request. This is a clear attempt to skirt the BCA spending caps and shift funds into the Pentagon’s base budget. To put this maneuver into context, in terms of discretionary funding, it would make OCO the equivalent of the second largest stand-alone agency (after the Department of Defense). This dramatic increase 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. Taxpayers were especially disappointed that attempts offset this spending with cuts elsewhere were rebuffed in both chambers, and that a point of order against the increased spending was not included in the conference report.
Also troubling to taxpayers, the budget includes a deficit neutral reserve fund for infrastructure that could open the door to an increased gas tax. Likewise 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.
To its credit, the conference report does impose some limitations on the use of “changes in mandatory spending programs” or CHIMPS. This budget gimmick further imperils the likelihood of future balance - almost no real savings will be achieved by these illusory reductions that merely shift spending into subsequent years. It also contains a reserve fund for tax reform, reconciliation language to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and it purports to balance within ten years.
Still, 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. Utilizing budgetary gimmicks and demonstrating an inability to constrain spending now make it unlikely that we’ll find our way back to sustainability when the choices grow even tougher.
Roll call votes on the conference report to 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