U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), joined his Senate and House colleagues in voicing support for the Honest Budget Act, a measure that would stop the most common budget gimmicks and accounting tricks that Washington uses to conceal and enable deficit spending. Lead House sponsor Representative Martha Roby and House GOP Members introduced their companion measure today, joining Chambliss and other GOP Senators at a press conference. Below is a transcript of his remarks:
"It is truly a shame that we have to come out here and force the hand of the Democrats by passing a law saying that it is time you guys present a budget," said Chambliss. "Americans want to see how much money we're going to spend and I commend Jeff [Sessions] and Olympia [Snowe] and Martha [Roby] for coming forward with a meaningful proposal that not only says that you have to pass a budget, but that also you have to be responsible in the way you do it. You can have the greatest budget in the world, and have all the right numbers in it, but if you don't have enforcement mechanisms in place then all the great numbers in a budget mean nothing. That's the type of enforcement mechanisms that we need to have in place, and I'm very pleased to stand beside all of these folks in a bicameral way and say it's time that we got more responsible and more transparent in our budget process."
To watch Sen. Chambliss' statement, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jerGjWh4-0
Spending Money Without A Budget
For more than two consecutive years, the Democrat Senate has failed to adopt a budget. The Honest Budget Act sets in place a new sixty vote point-of-order threshold for trying to move an annual spending bill in the Senate unless a binding budget resolution has been agreed to.
Congress has added billions to the deficit by labeling routine expenditures as emergency spending, allowing lawmakers to bypass budgetary rules. For example, Congress included $210 million in "emergency" spending for the 2010 Census. Under current procedure, the emergency designation is simply written into the bill text by a single lawmaker. The Honest Budget Act puts the burden on a supermajority of Congress to affirm it.
Congress frequently rescinds money that was never going to be spent in the first place and then uses those "savings" to pay for increased spending elsewhere. For instance, if $10 million has been appropriated to build a highway that turns out to cost only $8 million to complete, Congress can rescind the $2 million difference (that never left the Treasury), and use it to increase spending by $2 million for an unrelated project. Thus, Congress can claim that a bill that spends $2 million more in taxpayer dollars has no impact on the debt. The Honest Budget Act ends this gimmick by prohibiting rescissions from being counted as spending cuts unless they produce actual cash savings over the budget window.
The Fake Federal Pay Freeze
In November 2010, the president promised to institute a "two-year pay freeze for all civilian federal workers." But seventy percent of civilian federal workers have continued to receive 2--3 percent pay increases. The Honest Budget Act, in keeping with the president's pledge, would simply make the federal pay freeze real.
Bill drafters use timing shifts to get around the budget rules that prohibit legislation from increasing the deficit in certain enforcement periods. By shifting expenditures or tax due dates from one period to another, legislation can appear to be deficit neutral in all the enforceable time periods when it really isn't. Congress has used timing shifts to claim $42 billion in bogus offsets since 2009. The Honest Budget Act would disallow these phony offsets from being used.