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, could 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, but signs that lawmakers may consider concrete steps toward changing the way things are done are encouraging.