Much Room for Congressional Improvement on Budget

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Congressional leaders say they are aiming for a more timely and effective budget process this year, one that would let the government start the next fiscal year on Oct. 1 with clear directions and funding decisions.

That would be a vast improvement over last year and most other recent years, when partisan logjams and procrastination on Capitol Hill forced federal agencies to guess for months at how much money they were going to be spending — and on what.

To avoid shutdowns, lawmakers have relied for months or even entire years on continuing resolutions, which basically just hold spending at previous levels — regardless of changing needs. Final spending decisions are then often rolled — as they were last month — into a single package that lawmakers have little time to evaluate.

This is hardly a recipe for the governmental efficiency that lawmakers in both parties say they want. One solution would be to resign themselves earlier in the year to the need to compromise. Lawmakers should also consider moving to a 2-year budget cycle that would provide more time to work on long-term, structural reforms — notably with the entitlement programs and inefficient tax system.

Unfortunately, Congress last month moved in exactly the wrong direction by approving with an array of tax provisions that will raise deficits by an estimated $680 billion over 10 years.

So as lawmakers return to Washington this week and next, they are starting out in a new fiscal hole they have just dug. There’s no time to lose in pursuing more responsible budget policies.

External links:
Concord Coalition Executive Director Robert Bixby’s Testimony Before Senate Budget Committee
Tax and Spending Package Will Boost Federal Deficits (Concord)
For Wealthiest, a Tax System That Saves Them Billions (N.Y. Times)
Why Congress Will Get Even Less Done in 2016 (Fiscal Times)

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