Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today on the important topic of fixing the budget process. It is a privilege to appear before the Committee.
I am the President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Our Co-Chairs are Bill Frenzel, Jim Nussle, Tim Penny and Charlie Stenholm, and our Board is comprised of many of the past Directors of the Office of Management and Budget, the Congressional Budget Office and the Chairs of the Federal Reserve Board and the House and Senate Budget Committees. I was also a member of the Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform, which spent three years developing a collection of recommendations to reform the budget process, which can be a helpful component in overcoming our fiscal challenges. The Commission released a plethora of papers and two reports – Red Ink Rising and Getting Back in the Black that focused on the need to adopt multi-year budgetary targets, automatic triggers as well as many other budgetary reforms.
I share a belief with many of you and other members of Congress that 1) out budget process needs major improvements; 2) an improved process can both help force and enforce better policies; and 3) process reform is not a silver bullet with regard to fixing our looming fiscal crisis, but it can help. The only way to fix that is to put in place a large, comprehensive fiscal plan addressing our major fiscal challenges, and the sooner we enact such a plan, the better it will be for the fiscal and economic well being of the United States.
Our budget process is just not working. Deadlines exist in name only; appropriations continuously fall behind schedule leading to unwanted mini and omnibus legislation, and gimmicks are regularly employed. And these problems only exist for the small portion of the budget that lawmakers annually mark up and decide. The vast majority of our spending and tax policies are on autopilot, leading to a system where our national priorities are neither fully thought out nor fully funded.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and the Peterson-Pew Commission have crafted a number of budget reform recommendations, which we call the 3-Ts of Targets, Triggers and Transparency, which we believe would enhance the current budget process. Among these are:
- Setting a medium-term debt target and a glide path of annual debt and savings targets to achieve it
- Using broad-based budget triggers with no programmatic exemptions to ensure that targets are met
- Following the enactment of a deficit reduction plan to stabilize the debt, using additional triggers and spending and tax expenditure caps to keep any plan on track
- Requiring the President to issue annual progress reports on the effects of all newly issued legislation and progress towards longer-term fiscal goals
- Presenting new budget allocations compared to the previous year’s levels as well as other baselines
- Reforming the way for which emergencies are budgeted
- Presenting tax expenditures by area alongside other spending in the same categories
- Increasing the level of scrutiny and oversight on tax expenditures
Today’s hearing is more specifically about the budget reform known as biennial budgeting, a reform that the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget supports. I will also spend some time speaking about an extension of this policy, multi-year budgeting, something the Committee finds particularly important right now.
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