SHAHEEN AND ISAKSON TO SUPERCOMMITTEE: BIENNIAL BUDGETING WOULD REDUCE SPENDING, INCREASE OVERSIGHT

September 27, 2011

(Washington, D.C.) —U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) called on the deficit-fighting supercommittee to consider adding biennial budgeting to their upcoming package of proposed reforms. To reduce waste and increase oversight, Isakson and Shaheen introduced legislation earlier this year to switch Congress from an annual spending process to a biennial, two-year cycle, dedicating one year to passing spending bills and the other year to scrutinizing federal programs.

In a September 26 letter to Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, Isakson and Shaheen wrote, “As members of Congress, we have a responsibility to spend taxpayer dollars wisely. Our current budget and spending process does not help us meet that responsibility. Instead, it creates an atmosphere in which waste is all too common. If we are serious about reducing future wasteful spending, we must consider changing this broken process to focus more on looking at what works and what does not work.  Biennial budgeting is a strong step in the right direction.”

Isakson has sponsored biennial budgeting proposals every year since he came to the Senate in 2005 and Shaheen has firsthand experience with biennial budgeting from her tenure as governor of New Hampshire. Under the terms of an agreement reached earlier this summer, the supercommittee is currently debating various deficit reduction proposals and must make recommendations by November 23.

Congress has repeatedly failed to pass the 12 annual spending bills on time and frequently has resorted to passing omnibus bills at the last minute instead of debating each spending bill individually.  Last year, Congress failed to complete work on a single one of the 12 appropriations bills before adjourning for the year.  Since 1980, Congress has only twice completed the entire appropriations process before October 1. 

The Biennial Budget Appropriations Act is S.211.

The text of the letter is below:


September 26, 2011

The Honorable Jeb Hensarling                                   

Co-Chair, Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction

129 Cannon House Office Building                           

Washington, DC 20515


The Honorable Patty Murray

Co-Chair, Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction

448 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510


Dear Representative Hensarling, Senator Murray, and Members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction,

As you know, our deficits have reached an unsustainable level and we need to act to put our government back on a fiscally sustainable path. While many tough choices lie ahead of us, there is an easy choice that would make our federal agencies more efficient while simultaneously creating greater opportunity for congressional oversight: move from a one-year budget cycle to a two-year cycle. Such a change would help restore order to the broken budget process and promote the responsible use of taxpayer dollars. Biennial budgeting is a critical common-sense reform that will provide greater stability and predictability in the budget process and will improve much-needed oversight and management of federal programs.

We write to urge you to take the Biennial Budgeting and Appropriations Act into consideration while searching for ways to reduce spending. The Biennial Budgeting and Appropriations Act would help change the way we do business in Washington so that Congress can make the tough choices needed to confront our mounting deficits and better prevent future waste. The current appropriations system drains time from Congress’ ability to effectively oversee our federal government. Many appropriations for nondefense programs operate under authorization laws that have expired. A two-year budget cycle would allow Congress to dedicate every other year to reviewing these authorizations. At the same time, this legislation would make federal agencies more efficient by allowing them to devote less time to the budget process and more time to doing their jobs.

Specifically, the Biennial Budgeting and Appropriations Act would require the President to submit a two-year budget at the beginning of the first session of a Congress. Members of Congress would then adopt a two-year budget resolution, a reconciliation bill if necessary, and two-year appropriations bills by providing a new majority point of order against consideration of an appropriations bill that fails to cover two years.

The second session of a Congress could then be devoted to the consideration of authorization bills and oversight of federal programs. We believe the enhanced oversight will result in more accountability of government programs, thereby decreasing wasteful spending.

One of the great advantages of our federal system is the opportunity to take what works in the states and apply it at the national level. Presently, 21 states operate under a two-year budget cycle. In New Hampshire we have seen the benefits of biennial budgeting firsthand. Agencies were able to get the most out of their budgets simply by doing their jobs, rather than spending their time engaging in a protracted budget process.

Support for a two-year budget cycle extends well beyond the state level. This legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support at the federal level for several years. A biennial budget system is an idea that has been endorsed by each successive president since Ronald Reagan, as well as numerous federal budget experts.

Congress has repeatedly failed to pass spending bills on time and frequently resorted to omnibus bills at the last minute instead. The current process is so broken that since 1980, Congress has only twice completed appropriations legislation on time.

As members of Congress, we have a responsibility to spend taxpayer dollars wisely. Our current budget and spending process does not help us meet that responsibility. Instead, it creates an atmosphere in which waste is all too common. If we are serious about reducing future wasteful spending, we must consider changing this broken process to focus more on looking at what works and what does not work.  Biennial budgeting is a strong step in the right direction and we hope we can count on your support.

                                                            Sincerely,

Johnny Isakson                                                                       

United States Senate                                                              


Jeanne Shaheen

United States Senate

Identical letters sent to:

 

The Honorable Max Baucus

The Honorable John Kerry

The Honorable Jon Kyl

The Honorable Rob Portman

The Honorable Pat Toomey

The Honorable Xavier Becerra

The Honorable Dave Camp

The Honorable James Clyburn

The Honorable Fred Upton

The Honorable Chris Van Hollen

 

cc:

The Honorable John Boehner

The Honorable Harry Reid

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi

The Honorable Mitch McConnell

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