July 23, 2014

Little Progress in Talks on Fiscal 2014 Budget

  • 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...

The congressional conference committee on the budget got off to a leisurely start and now appears to have bogged down after only two public meetings – and less than a month away from a Dec. 13 deadline to complete its work.

Seven weeks into the new fiscal year, there is no federal budget in sight -- just a stop-gap measure that expires Jan. 15. It is hard to imagine a better way to waste tax dollars, with lawmakers failing to set priorities and federal departments forced to guess at what they will be spending in the coming year.

Neither party seems willing to tackle the key entitlement reform and tax reform issues that must be resolved. They would do well to heed Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Director Doug Elmendorf, who last week outlined the fiscal challenges to the committee and encouraged lawmakers to do their best to meet them.

Even if a clear resolution of the long-term budget problems is not feasible right now, Elmendorf said, revising the budget to better fit the nation’s priorities and reduce uncertainty about the coming year would be helpful.

Also last week, the CBO released its latest in-depth report on deficit-reduction possibilities. So there are plenty of well-researched options; lawmakers just need to start making some decisions.