If Congress Only Does Four Things in a Budget Resolution...

Yesterday, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget released a one-page list of principles to help guide policymakers in crafting a budget resolution this spring. CRFB called on Congress to follow regular order by agreeing to a budget resolution conference report that lays out a framework for pursuing priorities and addressing issues in a fiscally responsible manner before making major decisions on spending or revenues. The principles include four primary criteria for a responsible budget resolution:

  • Put the debt on a downward path - The budget should include realistic, gimmick-free tax and spending levels sufficient to reduce the debt as a share of the economy in the medium and long term. You can learn about the unsustainable path of federal debt by reading our Report: Deficit Falls to $483 Billion, but Debt Continues to Rise.
  • Responsibly address upcoming "Fiscal Speed Bumps" - These are the upcoming budget-related deadlines -- such as the impending cuts required by the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate, depletion of the Highway Trust Fund, and reinstatement of the debt limit -- that present lawmakers with an opportunity to add up to $3 trillion to the debt, or take the more fiscally responsible route. You can read more about them in our paper Fiscal Speed Bumps: Challenges, Risks, and Opportunities.
  • Provide for tax and entitlement reform, using reconciliation where appropriate - Reforms to control the growth of entitlements and fiscally responsible tax reform are essential to a plan to control our debt. A budget should not only include responsible tax and entitlement reforms, it also should include mechanisms that make their enactment more likely. Check out our tax reform resources page for detailed analysis of proposals and the case for tax reform. See our blog on drivers of the debt for an explanation of the growth of entitlement spending. To a take an interactive look at Social Security finances, try our Social Security Reformer.
  • Strengthen Budget Enforcement - It is important to bolster protections against phony savings and gimmicks that allow legislation that is not fiscally responsible to bypass budget rules. Learn more by reading Everything You Need to Know About Budget Gimmicks, In 8 Charts.

You can find the full Budget Resolution Principles document here. Maya MacGuineas, president of CRFB, said the following:

“We are optimistic that we will have a budget resolution this year. This is an important opportunity to address our already too-high and growing debt. Congress should use the budget resolution to establish a fiscal blueprint that will put the country back on a fiscally responsible path.”

If policymakers abide by these principles, we will have a better chance of beginning to address our unsustainable long-term debt.