Press Release
Tuesday, January 26, 1999

WASHINGTON -- Concord Coalition Executive Director Martha Phillips endorsed several federal budget process changes before a joint hearing of the Senate Budget and Governmental Affairs Committees today.

"Although Concord is heartened to see that, at least on a unified basis, the budget has achieved balance, our members remained concerned that the rhetoric of the press, politicians, and the public focus on this surplus even though on-budget accounts remain in deficit," said Phillips. "In fiscal year 1998, while newspaper headlines were trumpeting a $70 billion surplus, on-budget accounts were $29 billion in deficit. Only the $99 billion Social Security surplus brought the unified total up to a $70 billion surplus."

The budget process changes endorsed by the Concord Coalition include:


  • Moving to a two-year budget cycle: Moving to a biennial budget cycle would lessen opportunities for fiscal irresponsibility. Conversion to a biennial cycle would be a significant change, but not as large as it might seem as some two-thirds of the budget accounts already provide multiple-year or no-year funding and advance appropriations are made for programs where there is a clear need to have funds immediately available at the beginning of the fiscal year.


  • Changes to the pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) requirements regarding tax cuts: If there are truly on-budget surpluses, then Concord believes it is entirely legitimate to debate how best to allocate them among three possible uses: tax cuts, spending increases, and/or debt reduction. Concord's preference would be to reduce the debt. If PAYGO rules are amended to permit on-budget surpluses to be used for tax cuts, however, the Concord Coalition urges Congress and the White House to keep in mind that the surpluses are not likely to be permanent unless steps are taken to address the long-term deficits in entitlement programs for senior citizens.


  • Increases to the discretionary caps should be offset on the PAYGO scorecard: Although the Concord Coalition supports retaining the discretionary caps at their current levels, there is great pressure building to increase them. Back-loaded appropriations in last year's omnibus legislation means that almost $30 billion in reductions from current levels will be required this year in order to comply with the caps, and real reductions of nine percent will be required in discretionary spending between now and 2002. Concord believes it would be good for long-term budget discipline to require that any increases in the caps be scored under PAYGO.


  • Requiring a 60-vote point of order in the Senate on any emergency spending bill and on any non-emergency provision in an emergency supplemental appropriations bill: Concord also supports the proposal to analyze whether a proposed emergency expenditure or tax change meets five criteria -- is it necessary, sudden, urgent, unforeseen, and not permanent? Concord also favors enacting regular appropriations for the principal relief programs at their long-term average levels, as natural disasters occur with regularity.


  • Making a continuing resolution automatic at the lower of the President's requested level or the previous year's appropriated level.
  • MEDIA ADVISORY: The full text of Phillips' testimony is available by following this link.