A Drama-Less Happy Fiscal Year!

The calendar turns over for the federal government today as FY 2015 is underway. Unlike last year, which started with the government being shut down for the first two-and-a-half weeks, a continuing resolution will fund the government through December 11 mostly at FY 2014 levels. The drama-free start to FY 2015 was set up by the chaos of early FY 2014, as the government shutdown led to a budget conference that set spending levels for the next two years.

It's not clear how FY 2015 will unfold with midterm elections next month, but we can take a look back at what happened in the year that just finished. Here are 14 important facts about FY 2014.

    1. Debt held by the public: $12,752,783,777,182. As of September 29th, the federal government has racked up over $12.7 trillion in debt, including about $800 billion in FY 2014 alone. As a share of GDP, debt has increased from 72 percent to nearly 74.5 percent this year. This total is higher than debt has been at any point other than during World War II and its immediate aftermath.
    2. FY 2014 Deficit: $506 billion. Fiscal year 2014 saw a deficit of $506 billion, down from a $680 billion deficit in the previous year. According to the Congressional Budget Office, next year will be the last year of declining deficits as the economy rebounds and deficits then start to increase quickly again.
    3. Number of days the government was shut down: 16. The fiscal year started with controversy as no Congress failed to pass a government funding bill, leading to a government shutdown. After some posturing and a number of proposals to increase deficits, President Obama signed into law around midnight on October 17 a continuing resolution to fund the government through mid-January and agreed to go to a budget conference.
    4. Number of days into the fiscal year until an appropriation bill was passed: 108. After the Murray-Ryan budget agreement set spending caps for FY 2014, appropriators came to an agreement on an omnibus appropriations bill, which was signed into law on January 17, 108 days after the fiscal year began.
    5. Number of times the debt ceiling was suspended: 2. The government shutdown was made even more tense since it coincided with the federal government approaching the debt ceiling. The bill to end the shutdown also suspended the debt ceiling until February 7. Lawmakers then moved quickly to suspend it again in early 2014, setting the re-instatement date for March 15 of next year (although borrowing authority won’t run out until significantly later due to the use of “extraordinary measures”).
    6. Number of FY 2015 appropriations bills passed: 0. Congress ultimately did not come to an agreement on any of the FY 2015 appropriations bills, passing instead a continuing resolution to fund the government until mid-December at FY 2014 levels. The House has passed 7 of the 12 bills, while the Senate hasn’t passed any.
    7. Number of people enrolled in the Affordable Care Act's new health insurance exchanges: 7.3 million. Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act got off to a rocky start on October 1, 2013, as the website for the federally run health insurance exchange experienced technical difficulties for people trying to enroll. But enrollment eventually took off, leading to 7.3 million paid enrollees as of the latest update in September.
    8. Amount of sequester relief provided for FY 2014: $45 billion. The Murray-Ryan agreement included $63 billion of sequester relief -- $45 billion in FY 2014 and $18 billion in FY 2015 -- split equally between defense and non-defense spending. The increase in the spending caps was offset by $85 billion of savings, including a two-year extension of the sequester on mandatory spending.
    9. Number of times major budget gimmicks were used: 3. On two different occasions, lawmakers partially offset “doc fixes” by shifting the Medicare sequester to earlier in calendar years 2023 and 2024, thus ensuring more of the sequester cuts were booked inside the ten-year budget window. These shifts totaled $7 billion but did not produce any actual new savings. Lawmakers also financed a general revenue transfer to the Highway Trust Fund with “pension smoothing,” a policy that raises $6.4 billion over ten years but loses that revenue in later years, and increases the risk to taxpayers by further underfunding single-employer pension plans.
    10. Total amount lawmakers added to the debt from legislation: $20 billion. Increases in discretionary spending in the Murray-Ryan agreement and elsewhere -- plus the Veterans' Affairs health care funding law -- were the main costs, while the Murray-Ryan savings offset some of those increases. Note that even the $20 billion cost is somewhat optimistic since it includes $13 billion of savings from the aforementioned gimmicks, plus an additional $4 billion which merely offset the temporary funding for the Highway Trust Fund.
    11. Number of years until Social Security Disability Insurance fund becomes insolvent: 2. Neither CBO nor the Trustees changed their insolvency date for the Disability Insurance trust fund, so it is still set to be insolvent in late 2016, just two years from now. CRFB has started the SSDI Solutions Initiative to discuss ways to improve the program while also making it solvent.
    12. Number of tax extenders Senate Finance Committee let expire: 2. Although the tax extenders that expired at the end of 2013 have not yet been extended, there have been proposals in each chamber to do so. The Senate Finance Committee initially let 12 of the more than 50 provisions expire in its two-year extension package released in April but quickly reinstated most of them only a few days later. As it currently stands, the package permits only two provisions expire: a credit for energy-efficient appliances and partial expensing of certain refinery property. They would cost a combined $2 billion over ten years if extended permanently, compared to the $85 billion cost of just a two-year extension of everything else.
    13. Number of major comprehensive tax reform plans offered: 1. 2014 saw tax reform take a step forward as House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) offered his Tax Reform Act. The deficit-neutral bill lowered individual tax rates to 10, 25, and 35 percent and lowered the corporate rate to 25 percent while scaling back a host of tax preferences. The draft is arguably the highest-profile tax reform effort since the last major tax reform law passed in 1986, but it remains to be seen if it will be a stepping stone to broader efforts in the next Congress.
    14. Number of CRFB blogs: 495. We’ve written 495 blogs in the past year. That’s a lot of pushing back on gimmickry, highlighting the unsustainability of our debt, and breaking down policy proposals and reports.