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This week begins the annual government kabuki dance known as the budget process. Every year Congress develops a budgetary framework that is incorporated into a budget resolution. This budget resolution dictates how much of our hard earned money is to be spent on government programs and how much we may receive back in the form of tax relief.
Due to increased spending on defense and homeland security initiatives and the recent recession, this year’s budget process will prove particularly divisive. A good economy and several other factors combined together in the mid 1990s to provide budgetary surpluses. The existence of these surplus funds led the Clinton White House to expand the size and scope of government. Understanding that a surplus indicates an overpayment by taxpayers, President Bush last year gave some of it back through the 2001 Taxpayer Relief Act. But the events of September 11th and the recession of last year combined to reduce federal government revenue. The Democrats answer to this problem is to halt the Bush tax cut thereby increasing your taxes. Most Americans, however, believe that the required expenditures for the war and homeland security can and should be paid out of existing federal spending without tax increases.
Adding to this confusion is the fact that 2002 is an election year and members of Congress will feel pressure to engage in old-fashioned pork barrel politics. Already out of control, pork barrel special interest funding hit an all-new high last year. The bill that funds HUD, the Veterans Administration and the EPA for example had over 1,000 earmarks for just last year. These pet projects take away from legitimate functions of government and further exacerbate voter disillusionment.
The President has put forth a comprehensive budget for 2003 that provides for the priorities of our nation while returning to taxpayers what they deserve. Since the President believes that the new war requires additional resources, his budget pays for these by reducing other domestic discretionary spending items. Under President Clinton, domestic discretionary spending, which is for those government programs such as education, increased dramatically averaging double digit increases each year. The Bush budget keeps this discretionary spending at less than 6.5% and discourages the use of pork barrel spending through Congressional earmarks.
In developing the 2003 budget CSE supports the following:
The budget process will continue for some time. The House will mark up their version in committee sometime this week with floor consideration expected next week, then both the House and Senate recess for a two week Easter break. The Senate considers the budget upon return in mid-April with a final budget resolution expected by the end of April. While there is time to let your voice be heard, Members of Congress need to know your input as soon as possible.
Call or Email your representative. Tell them you want a budget that is balanced, pays for additional expenditures out of existing spending and makes permanent our hard fought tax relief.
Attend a townhall meeting or make an appointment with your legislator over the two-week recess beginning on March 22nd.