State of Union Speech's Annual "Price Tag" Sinks to Record-Low $91 Million, Study Finds

(Alexandria, VA) -- By putting a dollar figure on his proposed program savings to go along with new funding promises, last night President Bush called for a net total increase in the yearly federal budget of just $91 million -- the smallest amount among the seven most recent State of the Union addresses, according to a line-by-line analysis released today by the non-partisan National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF). Among the findings:

  • President Bush outlined items whose enactment would increase federal spending by a net of $91million per year, far lower than the $12.8 billion outlined in 2005 and a fraction of the annual spending hikes he proposed in his first State of the Union speech in 2002 ($106.6 billion). This overall level is the smallest NTUF has recorded since it began tracking the Presidential addresses in 1999 (that year Bill Clinton proposed $305 billion in spending hikes).
  • Of the 18 items with a possibly quantifiable budget impact that NTUF identified in Bush's speech, 11 would increase federal spending while 2 would reduce outlays (the remaining items mentioned policy initiatives with an unknowable cost).
  • The single largest spending hike Bush offered last night was a $10 billion-a-year "American Competitiveness Initiative" to provide more money to research as well as math and science education (the estimate includes only the impact on federal spending, not on revenues). Bush's plan to "help people afford the [health] insurance coverage they need" would boost federal expenditures by $4.6 billion, owing to the likely inclusion of "refundable" (i.e., in excess of actual tax liability) health insurance credits.
  • However, Bush's 2006 total might have climbed above that of his 2005 speech, had he not quantified the projected $14 billion savings from "reduc[ing] or eliminat[ing] more than 140 programs ...." In previous speeches, Bush had mentioned similar targeted spending cuts, but the White House provided no advance data from which NTUF could calculate the savings.

NTUF Senior Policy Analyst Demian Brady, who conducted the study, noted that several of the "cost unknown" items could add significantly to the net total spending increase Bush proposed last night. For example, the President asked Congress to "reform and reauthorize the Ryan White Act ... and provide new funding to states ...." The last reauthorization of this bill raised spending by $256 million annually, but it appears that Bush's calls for "reform" as well as "new funding to states" for AIDS care could cost a considerable (but indeterminable) amount.

"By offsetting nearly all of his proposed new program expenditures with cuts elsewhere, George W. Bush may just have given Congressional appropriators a starting point for their own plans to fight the federal budget deficit," Brady concluded. "Given that House Members in the last Congress proposed the equivalent of almost 45 dollars in spending hikes for every dollar in reductions, many taxpayers are probably hoping that lawmakers will try harder this year to match the President's feat."

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 documents.

NTUF is the research affiliate of the 350,000-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