Build Back Better Act Score Highlights Need for Improvements

For Immediate Release

Today, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) published its full score and estimate of the House Build Back Better Act (see our summary here), finding it would increase deficits by roughly $750 billion in the first five years and $160 billion over a decade. The legislation includes roughly $2.4 trillion of spending increases and tax cuts. These estimates assume all policies would expire as written in law despite many supporters of the bill planning to extend them.

The following is a statement from Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget:

Lawmakers have repeatedly pledged that Build Back Better would not add to the deficit, and they should stick to that praiseworthy pledge. In light of what CBO says, this means they need to find another $160 billion in offsets or reductions to the size of the bill. They should also drop the arbitrary sunsets and gimmicky SALT-related offsets. At an absolute minimum, they should make a credible commitment not to extend any parts of the bill without paying for them as well. 

CBO’s ten-year $160 billion deficit estimate is driven in part by its finding that new IRS funding will raise less revenue than the Treasury Department thinks. Improving funding for the IRS is one of the best ways to raise revenue. This policy will generate substantial revenue without raising taxes, and there are honest disagreements over the magnitude of that effect. But you don’t get to choose your own referee just because you don’t like a call, and Members of Congress should rely on rigorous and unbiased estimates from CBO. They could boost tax compliance revenue by supplementing IRS funding with new reporting requirements.

More troubling than the ten-year deficit increase is the use of expirations and arbitrary sunsets to reduce reported costs. As written, the legislation would add about $750 billion to the deficit over five years due to its front-loaded nature, and this would create immense pressure for future extensions.

Making temporary parts of Build Back Better permanent would double its cost to nearly $5 trillion. If these extensions were all enacted without offsets, Congress would ultimately add $3 trillion to the debt.

While we appreciate the hard work of Congress and the President to drop some items from their wish list and identify real budget offsets, much more needs to be done to avoid making this bill a massive budget buster.


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