October 25, 2014

Partisanship Aside, Two Senators Seek to Improve Budgeting

  • The federal budget is an expression of our country's values. Where we choose to spend and at what levels, how and who we tax, and the borrowing we...

Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) are from different parties and different regions but they share a belief that moving the federal budget to a two-year process would lead to a more strategic and thoughtful result than the current annual chaos.

The bipartisan pair shared the stage to promote biennial budgeting Monday at the University of New Hampshire School of Law’s Warren B. Rudman Center for Justice, Leadership and Public Policy in Concord, N.H. Concord Coalition Executive Director Robert L. Bixby moderated the discussion.

Shaheen and Isakson said Congress would spend the first year of the budget cycle setting priorities and passing appropriations bills. The second year would be devoted to oversight, which the senators said was lacking in the current system.

Shaheen noted that New Hampshire, where she served as governor, has had success with biennial budgeting, as have 19 other states.

Isakson, who ran a company for more than two decades, drew on his private-sector experience in concluding that a two-year budget cycle would provide better planning and more stability.

Both senators noted that tough choices would be required in the years ahead and said a change in the budget process could help policymakers eliminate duplication and waste. It would also allow time for better scrutiny of mandatory programs, which are not subject to annual appropriations and grow on autopilot.

Shaheen and Isakson urged the public to support biennial budgeting and to encourage members of Congress to adopt it.

The Concord Coalition has long supported biennial budgeting. While process reforms alone cannot replace hard policy choices, they can set expectations and reset a system that has clearly failed in recent years.

In closing the forum, Law School Dean John Broderick said it was refreshing to see a Democrat and a Republican working together to improve federal budgeting. Bixby agreed, saying that Shaheen and Isakson were setting an example for other senators to follow.