Budget Process Reform Beginning
August 29, 2001
The way the federal budget is presented has not changed significantly since 1968, while the budget process is largely governed by rules contained in the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990, adopted during a period of large deficits.
The Budget Enforcement Act expires next year, and the House Budget Committee has reported legislation for a new budget commission, modeled on the President's Commission on Budget Concepts, whose 1967 report fundamentally altered the way the budget is calculated.
Co-sponsored by House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) and Ranking Minority Member John Spratt (D-S.C.), H.R. 981 would establish a commission to examine such issues as:
- The efficacy of a two-year budget cycle, which would allow more time for budget oversight.
- An evaluation of user fees, which are currently scored as offsetting receipts or "negative spending," rather than as federal revenues.
- Improved accounting for acquisition and disposal of financial assets and the use of accrual-based measures for long-term financial commitments.
Unfortunately, the legislation ropes off some of the most important areas of the budget that need modernization. These include Social Security, Medicare and government-sponsored enterprises, such as Fannie Mae.
Source: Bruce Bartlett, senior fellow, National Center for Policy Analysis, August 29, 2001.
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