September 2, 2014

Experts Decry the Broken Budget Process

  • The national debt has grown significantly in recent years due to rising annual deficits. A deficit occurs in any year the government spends more...

Former CBO directors Rudolph Penner and Alice Rivlin were among the budget experts who testified in front of the House Budget Committee last week about the country’s broken budget process and offered their suggestions.

Penner emphasized that Congress should get serious about fiscal responsibility. He endorsed such reforms as focusing on a target for stabilizing the debt-to-GDP ratio and using a baseline that assumed all temporary tax measures would be renewed.

“There is no doubt,” Rivlin told the committee, “that the budget process is broken.” She pointed to the reliance on the new super committee instead of the normal budget process as evidence that the current system is dysfunctional. Rivlin recommended that the budget process be completely revamped, including a shift to biennial budgeting.

Phil Gramm, former chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, urged the committee to consider zero-based budgeting. Jim Nussle, former chairman of the House Budget Committee, echoed Penner’s sentiments about abiding by the current process before thinking of ways to change it.

Philip Joyce, professor of management, finance and leadership at the University of Maryland agreed that Congress would be well-served to simply follow the rules in place, but added that changes such as biennial budgeting and establishing joint budget solutions might help.

The Concord Coalition has long called on Congress to abide by the budget process rules and consider reforms to substantially improve the process.