(Washington, DC) -- It's time to draw the line against abuse of the "Emergency and Supplemental" Appropriations Bills that drive up the deficit and pile on the pork, according to the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU). Today the non-partisan NTU joined with fiscally-conscientious lawmakers and other citizen groups calling on Congress to trim the fat from the House and Senate Supplemental Bills ($92 billion and $107 billion, respectively), and offset their remaining provisions with spending reductions elsewhere.
"Eleven straight years of Supplemental spending legislation should be proof enough that the federal budget process has lost its sanity," said NTU President John Berthoud. "But given the Senate bill's proposed $700 million relocation of a railroad that was just repaired at a cost of $250 million, even regular gravy-train riders can't deny that Washington is way off-track."
Despite the recent adverse publicity surrounding the Senate's Supplemental Bill, Berthoud noted that the House's version -- even at the lower $92 billion level -- suffers from serious flaws of its own. Unrelated provisions that ought to be considered through the conventional budget process include: a $750 million funding shift for low-income energy assistance from Fiscal Year 2007 to this year, a $5 million sop to "academic and cultural exchanges" with Iran, and $36 million for international broadcasting operations. The House legislation also allows "such sums as necessary for interest on Treasury borrowings" owed by the reckless National Flood Insurance Program, whose increasing liabilities could soon be covered by taxpayers.
As an expert in state as well as federal finance, Berthoud pointed out that since 1996, the federal government has spent over $450 billion under the "emergency" designation -- an extra $1,500 for every person in the U.S. He asserts that Congress could learn a lesson from states, nearly all of which maintain emergency, contingency, reserve, or "rainy day" funds to help cover unanticipated spending needs. This would not only help to smooth out spikes in deficit spending, but also help to prevent politicians from taking advantage of urgent situations to grow other government programs.
Berthoud also observed that House Leaders cast aside conservative lawmakers' calls to hold separate debates on the military and disaster components of the Supplemental Bill, as well as snubbed their suggestions to "pay for" the legislation by trimming lower-priority programs. Meanwhile, the average pro-taxpayer score on NTU's 2005 Rating of Congress (based on 370 votes) remained well below 50 percent in both Chambers -- the eighth straight year such low averages have been recorded.
"Under the GOP's so-called stewardship, federal spending has increased at rates not seen since Lyndon Johnson's Administration," Berthoud concluded. "The Emergency and Supplemental legislation may be the Leadership's last, best chance this election year to convince skeptical voters that Congress is serious about mending Washington's wasteful ways."
NTU is a non-profit, non-partisan organization working for lower taxes and smaller government. Note: More information on NTU's Rating, along with recommendations for budget process reform and spending reductions, may be accessed online at www.ntu.org.