Senator David Perdue: Fix the Budget Process

Georgia Senator David Perdue, a member of the Senate Budget Committee is continuing his efforts to reform the way the federal government makes spending and appropriations decisions. The current system, he argues, has only worked four times in the last 40 years, and has led to gridlock, last minute omnibus spending bills, and a national debt of $19 trillion.

In a video to be released today, the senator outlines several principles which he says should be the first steps in reforming the budget process. The first step, says Perdue, is to change the budget resolutions passed each spring to set spending priorities to have enforcement power in order to maintain the discipline needed to turn the resolution into actual appropriations bills.

In addition, Senator Perdue says the budget should include everything the government receives and spends, not just the discretionary spending items it currently includes. 70% of what the government currently spends is considered mandatory spending and is not accounted for. Because there are real consequences when Congress doesn’t complete its appropriations process in a timely manner, Perdue wants to find a way to provides consequences for Congress if it doesn’t finish in a timely manner. Although he doesn’t specify the types of sanctions that could be employed, he says that the effects of not finishing the budget process should not fall on the military or the American people.

Ultimately, the Senator suggests, a complete redesign of the budgeting and appropriations to something that allows for timely government funding. He suggests that this could include aligning the start of the fiscal year with the start of the calendar year.

The Senator’s video is the second in a series on the national debt. You can watch the first one here. A transcript of the video is below the fold.

“The primary responsibility of Congress is to fund the federal government. In fact, Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution charges us to do just that.

After going through the full budget process for the first time last year, I can tell you it is more broken than expected.

Dysfunction and gridlock has enabled the President to overreach his Constitutional powers and led to runaway spending by both parties.

Washington has lost sight of the very principles the American people follow in their day-to-day lives to ensure fiscal discipline.

The result is what we see today: $19 trillion in debt, $100 trillion in future unfunded liabilities, and a budget that is no longer a governing document but simply a political document.

This can be changed. In fact, it must be changed right now. We are out of time for idle debate and partisan bickering. The crisis is upon us.

As we begin the budget cycle once again, there are a few guiding principles Washington should consider going forward.

First, the budget should have the enforcement power of a law, not just a resolution.

Fiscal discipline cannot be fully achieved if the approved budget can be ignored or abandoned at any time when financial decisions become too tough or politically motivated.

This is what we saw last year. Congressional leaders and President Obama waited until the eleventh hour to fund the government and ended up waiving the Republican budget, which, by the way, cut $7 trillion in spending from the President’s budget. Instead of a budget, they agreed on a short-term fix, an omnibus, instead of a serious solution to our spending problem.

Second, the budget should be all encompassing. It should include all spending and all revenue.

Most people don’t know that about 70 percent of what the federal government spends is mandatory, and is therefore, not accounted for in the budget process.

You and I both know that it is impossible to be responsible for the budgetary decisions if you don’t really know what the full mandatory spending is and if it’s not considered in the budget process.

For instance, if you look at the state of Georgia’s budget, they start out with a revenue estimate—a full picture of the budget. But the federal government does not even do that.

We must have a realistic accounting of all government spending to fully understand the fiscal catastrophe we are facing and be able to fix it.

Third, there should be real consequences for Congress if it does not fund the federal government on time. How simple is that?

Previous consequences, like sequestration, only hurt the military and other essential programs, instead of making smart and strategic decisions.

Firm deadlines for each phase of the funding process should be enforced without exception.

Consequences for not completing any step of the process should impact those who failed to do their job – Congress – not the military or the American people.

Ultimately, Congress should redesign its process to accommodate the timely completion of funding the federal government.

The current committee structure and timeline needs to be realigned so funds can be allocated appropriately and ensure accountability.

Part of this realignment should include changing the fiscal year to the calendar year in order to accommodate the full annual budgeting cycle for each new Congress.

As it is, the current budget process has only worked four times in the last 40 years, yet Washington still holds this broken process as sacred.

We’ve got to change that.

The first step to solving our exploding debt crisis is to fix the budget process right now. We can no longer afford the gridlock—and this should not be a partisan effort.

The result is what we’ve seen play out year after year—funding patches, continuing resolutions, and omnibus bills, which have not been effective in controlling spending.

It’s time for Washington to be honest with the American people about the realities of our current financial catastrophe.

Completing a timely budget that funds our priorities as a country is the primary responsibility of Congress.

Folks, it’s time to finally come to the realization that until we fix the way Washington funds the federal government, more often than not, we will have to say ‘we cannot afford it.’”

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The Dixie Cheetomonger
The Dixie Cheetomonger

Even with these changes, I doubt that you could keep congress continuously kicking the can down the road. Congress might have a better budgeting process, but they will still willingly blind themselves to the actual problems in the budget. As much as I wish simply changing procedural issues on forming a budget would magically change how much we spend on healthcare, which is the main driver of increased outlays, we all know that it will still be business as usual. Talking about how we need to change the budget process is merely a feint for discussing the actual budget.

bethebalance
bethebalance

Better budget procedures would def be a step up, but the stricter the procedures, the less flexible and responsive to changing circumstances. So the type of procedure matters. What’s a bit misleading: Mandatory spending is certainly “accounted for”, it’s just not used as a bargaining chip in the give and take of the discretionary budget process, for good and lawful reasons. You can make changes to “mandatory” spending by changing the underlying laws. A potentially more fruitful step up in budget procedures was suggested a while back, with a 2-year budget window for broad agency spending, with an annual or… Read more »

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

Can someone, ANYONE, explain to this dimwit how money actually works in a sovereign currency nation??? Because, he has no clue, none, zilch, nada. I am not saying the process now is working, but when you go to Congress with your sole purpose to destroy government dont get on your soapbox and complain about it being broken after you succeed. Tax receipts have nothing to do with the amount of money you can spend in DC Note to Perdue…this aint the dollar general The Fed prints money when Congress spends it…then they sell the debt on the open market and… Read more »

auh2o
auh2o

So 19 tril in debt is good?