October 23, 2014

Blogs

House Budget Panel Approves Switch to Biennial Budgeting

The House Budget Committee last week approved a bill on a bipartisan 22-10 vote that would switch the annual congressional budget process to a biennial (two-year) cycle.

States Should Use Surpluses to Improve Their Long-Term Fiscal Health

State lawmakers across the country are debating how to spend large surpluses after the economic recovery helped produce higher-than-expected tax collections for the second year in a row.

Fixing The Debt Limit Frankenstein

Like Frankenstein’s monster, the statutory debt limit will soon come back to life. It has been in a state of suspended animation since the October 2013 budget deal that ended the government shutdown.

The terms of that deal allowed the government to borrow without limit through this Friday, when the suspension period ends and the current debt level of about $17.3 trillion instantly becomes the new limit.

Oregon Experiment with Medicaid Reform Begins to Reap Dividends

As more people obtain health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges and its expansion of Medicaid -- the federal-state program for low-income individuals -- policymakers should focus on ensuring that the health care system can meet the increased demand for services.

Task Force Identifies Growing Fiscal Challenges for States

Many state and local governments have done little to address growing structural problems in their budgets that have been aggravated by federal deficit-reduction efforts, according to the State Budget Crisis Task Force.

The bipartisan organization released its final report last week, reiterating a stark warning from its previous reports: “The existing trajectory of state spending, and administrative practices cannot be sustained.”

Health Care Cost Growth Slows, But We Still Need Long-Term Focus

A new report by the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) found that health care spending over the past four years grew at the slowest rate recorded in more than half a century.

Complicated Tax Code Creates Difficulties for IRS -- and Taxpayers

The national taxpayer advocate, who serves as ombudswoman for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), released her annual report last week, saying budget reductions have “significantly hampered” the agency’s ability to provide top-quality service.

Instead of Business as Usual, Tax Extenders Will Expire at End of the Year

Unlike the past few years, the recent budget agreement has smoothed the way for Congress to recess for its winter break well before Christmas. That has left some traditional end-of-year legislation out in the cold.

The Budget Deal: A Beginning or the End?

President Obama hailed the two-year budget deal reached by House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) as a “good first step.”

If he meant a good first step toward broader reforms needed to put the nation’s finances on sounder footing for the long-term, let’s hope he is right.

It is not clear, however, that Capitol Hill leaders, or the President for that matter, have any plans to follow up this very modest achievement with anything more.