U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), a member of the Senate Budget Committee, applauded today's introduction of legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives aimed at reforming Congress' broken budget process. Ayotte is a cosponsor of the Senate version of the Honest Budget Act (S. 1651), which would eliminate budgetary gimmicks that have allowed Congress to mask deficit spending and claim false savings. The nine-step plan would improve the budget process by creating more transparency and accountability, and by strengthening scoring rules to make them more accurate.
"For too long, the budget process has been subject to manipulative accounting gimmicks that end up portraying a misleading picture of the nation's spending habits. This legislation will help bring transparency to the budget process and make it harder to spend money we don't have," said Senator Ayotte. "In addition to reforming the process, the single most important action we can take to get our fiscal house in order is to actually pass a budget. It has now been more than 1,000 days since the Democrat-controlled Senate last passed a budget. That's unacceptable, and I will continue my efforts on the Budget Committee to pass a responsible spending for our country."
The Honest Budget Act would:
Make it harder to advance appropriation bills unless a budget resolution is already in place;
Tighten the process for adding the "emergency" designation to spending measures, a frequently abused method for avoiding the fiscal restraints imposed by the budget resolution;
Improve current law by measuring the cost of loan and loan guarantee programs using a market default risk rate that reflects the loans' fair value;
Adopt a rule that would prevent scoring rescissions of budget authority as savings unless they produce actual cash savings in the budget window;
Prevent changes in mandatory spending programs from being used as budgetary savings in discretionary (non-mandatory) spending bills;
Establish a new scoring rule that would prohibit the use of timing shifts for the purposes of producing phony budget savings;
Make President Obama's two-year federal pay freeze real by eliminating automatic within-grade step increases through the end of 2012;
Require transfers from the General Fund for highways to be scored as new spending. Since 2008, turning a blind eye has led to $35 billion in transfers that were scored as "budget neutral;"
Prevent abuse of advance appropriations by reinstating the budget point of order limiting Congress' ability to defer increased spending to future years in order to make room for more immediate needs in the current year (and then argue later that the spending limits in subsequent years should be raised to accommodate the deferred spending).