Budget Reforms Come to the Forefront in the House Budget Committee

Last week, the House Budget Committee released a package of budget process reforms consisting of seven different pieces of legislation. Four of these pieces of legislation -- on dynamic scoring, credit program accounting, the budget resolution, and how CBO constructs its baseline -- we blogged on last year, which you can see here.

The other three pieces of legislation were also proposed last session. One of them, the Expedited Line-Item Veto and Rescissions Act, is a bipartisan bill co-sponsored by the Committee chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) which would give the President "expedited rescission authority," a variant of the line-item veto.

Another bill is from Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI), the Biennial Budgeting and Enhanced Oversight Act, which would (as its name suggests) put the federal budget process on a biennial cycle. The budget resolution would be done during the first session of Congress, while authorizations would be made in the second session, theoretically giving legislators more time for oversight of appropriated spending.

The final bill, the Review Every Dollar Act sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), make a number of different changes to spending rules. It would require periodic reauthorizations or sunsets of all federal programs, require new rules or regulations to be explicitly funded by Congress, require transfers from general revenue to the Highway Trust Fund to be either offset or counted as new spending, and provide mechanisms for legislators to devote savings from a bill to deficit reduction.

The Peterson-Pew Commission's report "Getting Back in the Black" recommended some of these measures. Their recommendations included fully accounting for the cost of government-sponsored enterprises, using fair-value accounting for credit programs, and having expedited rescission authority. While they did not specifically endorse biennial budgeting, they did call for lawmakers to set goals for programs and ramp up oversight to make sure those goals were being met.

Budget process reforms are not a silver bullet for our budget issues, but to the extent that they make the budget process more transparent and results-oriented, they can be helpful.