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House Bills Would Make Budget Estimates More Confusing

The House Budget Committee will consider two bills tomorrow that, contrary to their titles, would harm the congressional budget process.  The House passed similar bills last year, and we have previously explained how they would make budget estimates less transparent and less useful.

  • The “Baseline Reform Act” (H.R. 1871) would require the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in constructing budget baselines that project future funding levels, to assume that discretionary appropriations will remain frozen indefinitely, with no adjustment for inflation.  The bill would have no effect for 2014 through 2021, since the baseline for those years assumes that appropriations conform to the levels specified in the Budget Control Act of 2011.  Beyond 2021, though, the proposal would make projections of deficits and debt unrealistic and misleading, we explained last year.
  • The “Pro-Growth Budgeting Act” (H.R. 1874) would require CBO to prepare “dynamic” estimates of the budgetary impact of major legislation.  Because the effects of tax and spending changes on the overall economy are highly uncertain, trying to include these factors in budget estimates would impair the credibility of the budget process, our 2012 report explained.

The Budget Committee may also soon consider a third budget process bill that would also have unfortunate consequences.

  • The “Budget and Accounting Transparency Act” (H.R. 1872) would add an extra amount to the recorded budgetary cost of federal credit programs, beyond their actual cost to the government, to reflect what private lenders would charge if they issued the loans and loan guarantees.  We have updated our in-depth analysis of this proposal and have issued a new, shorter explanation.