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Out-of-control government spending is the most pressing issue of our day. The Coalition to Reduce Spending is dedicated to advocating for reducing federal spending and balancing the budget. Continuing to live beyond our means will only jeopardize our country's future prosperity and security.
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Sen. Isakson introduces biennial budgeting bill

The news may have been overshadowed by the many political controversies currently swirling, but Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) has introduced a bill that, if enacted, would be one of the most impactful budgetary laws in generations.

In short, the bill would move the US to a system of biennial budgeting, or one carried out under a two-year time horizon. Sen. Isakson writes:

biennial budgeting would convert Congress’ current broken annual appropriations process to a two-year budget cycle, with one year for appropriating federal dollars and the other year devoted to oversight of federal programs. This would allow for better oversight before we start spending more. Oversight is critical to running a business or even a household, and it should be a priority when spending taxpayer dollars.

As Isakson points out, the current system is horribly broken — with Congress finishing all 12 appropriations bills on time just twice since 1980. The way in which budgets have instead been done largely consists of continuing resolutions (which hold spending steady at current levels) or omnibus bills (which combine multiple appropriations into a single package). In both cases, these measures are usually passed at the last minute, under threat of government shutdown, and with very little opportunity for reforms.

While no process reform is likely to be a silver bullet that will set our country back on the road to fiscal solvency, steps toward changing the way things are done are encouraging and welcome.

Budget Woes in the States Should be a Warning to Washington

This post originally appeared on the Institute to Reduce Spending.

The end of fiscal year 2017 is quickly approaching for the federal government. At the end of September, Congress is required to pass all 12 appropriations bills — something that they have historically failed to do, as our debt nears $20 trillion.

Yet throughout the states, there are similar struggles happening, and the long-term risks for Washington’s irresponsibility come into sharp focus. After a two-year stalemate, Illinois’ Democratic-controlled legislature, along with 15 House and Senate Republicans, came together to override Governor Rauner’s vetoes and pass a budget. In order to curb the massive budget shortfall, the state income tax was hiked dramatically, while a $130 billion shortfall in pension liabilities remains unaddressed along with the $15 billion in unpaid bills the state has accumulated.

Illinois will be forced to issue bonds and borrow from various state accounts to help pay the overdue bills. The state was on the brink of seeing their credit rating fall to “junk” status, which would’ve made them the first U.S. state in history to do so.

Nearly 900 miles east in New Jersey, the state is also having their share of budget problems. Gov. Chris Christie signed a budget just before the 4th of July holiday after a 3-day budget impasse, which resulted in a partial government shutdown.
New Jersey and Illinois are not the only states that are having issues passing budgets. With just hours to go before the new fiscal year began July 1, there were 11 states that had not yet agreed on a budget.

Irresponsible budgeting at the state level has become almost a given, and occasionally the warnings of inevitable fiscal crisis can be easy to ignore. But the all-too-real experiences of several states should serve not only as a warning for them to get their own finances in order but a reminder of what can happen if Washington does not.

Audit the Pentagon Act Seeks to Force Responsibility

When George H. W. Bush was the 41st President of the United States, Congress passed legislation that required annual audits of all federal agencies. To date, the Pentagon is the only agency not to have completed one.

Late last month, Reps. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Michael Burgess (R-TX) introduced the Audit the Pentagon Act—H.R. 3079. The bill, which has 33 cosponsors in the House, would reduce the Department of Defense budget by half a percent every year that it fails to be audited.

Its supporters include conservatives like Rep. Amash (R-MI) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) and liberals like Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Jim McGovern (D-MA).

In a time of $20 trillion debt calls for a nearly $700 billion Defense budget, taxpayers should insist that every department — especially the Pentagon — is being run as efficiently as possible and that each dollar be scrutinized.

This bill may not be a fix-all for the Pentagon, but it is a good start to increasing efficiency and transparency. National security is the number-one priority for the government, and fiscal conservatives should push for reforms that prioritize defending our nation and ensuring that our military is as effective as possible, while taking on waste and watching out for our wallets.

Institute: Trump Personnel Budget Saves Millions

This post originally appeared on the Institute to Reduce Spending.

Last week, the Trump Administration released its annual report on White House Office Personnel, which includes data on the salaries of all 300+ White House employees. The projected four-year savings on the payroll is close to $20 million — which is perhaps a sign that President Trump is serious about finding cuts throughout the federal government.

As Adam Andrzejewski highlighted in a recent op-ed, Trump’s White House has over 100 fewer employees than Obama’s White House in his first year in office. Additionally, First Lady Melania Trump has only five staffers dedicated to her, while First Lady Michelle Obama had employed 24 staffers.

Part of the savings also stem from President Trump — along with Ivanka Trump (First Daughter and Advisor to the President) and Jared Kushner (Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor) — forgoing a salary. Because the President is required to receive a salary, President Trump decided to donate his pay to the Department of Interior for both the construction and repair of military cemeteries.

The White House Office Personnel is only a tiny morsel of the overall budget, but the fact that President Trump is willing to make cuts is encouraging leadership on his part. Fiscal conservatives can hope that this will lead other departments to find ways to save taxpayer money in their own offices and promote fiscal restraint across all sectors of the federal government.

House Budget Deliberations: Unanswered Questions and Grand Implications

Healthcare fights may be capturing the nation’s attention, but there’s another fight on the horizon that divides the Republican party. The House Budget Committee is continuing to work through a standoff over funding levels and will have their work cut out for them because of several factions vying for influence over their deliberations.

While reports Thursday night suggested that committee chairs were coming to agreement, there is a long road ahead, with tax reform and countless other issues hinging on the outcome of these deliberations.

Top-line numbers for non-defense discretionary spending is one such point of contention, as House Republicans want to start at $511 billion, below the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) cap of $516 billion.

Meanwhile, some in the Republican side are insisting on a topline for Pentagon funding at $621.5 billion – or $72.5 billion higher than the limit under the BCA. Some within the party have pushed for an even higher level.

The Senate would require 60 votes in order to break the BCA caps, so getting support for this type of plan would require Democratic support.  This is an unlikely possibility without concessions to raise spending on non-Defense discretionary spending.

Conservative Republicans will not be pleased with this plan. Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker has said that the budget committee has already identified $160 billion in politically feasible mandatory spending cuts, and that mandatory savings should be a minimum of $200 billion.

Meanwhile, fiscal conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus are hesitant to break the BCA caps at all, and Budget Chair Diane Black (R-TN) is pushing for an extra $50 billion in cuts to mandatory spending to seek their support, but getting pushback from other committee chairs and the moderate Tuesday Group as a result.

Breaking through all of this conflict will be an incredibly difficult balancing act, and fiscal conservatives will need to keep the pressure on to ensure our voices are heard in the deliberations.

What’s more, this conflict highlights the real difficulty in getting spending cuts, even from Republicans who have run on limited government and responsible budgeting for decades. If neither side is willing to budge from their favorite form of government spending, it will be a serious failure, and voters should take note.

 

 

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