FreedomWorks’ Bill of the Month for February 2020: Budget Process Enhancement Act, H.R. 5085

FreedomWorks is proud to announce that our bill of the month for February 2020 is the Budget Process Enhancement Act, H.R. 5085. Introduced by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), the Budget Process Enhancement Act seeks to make common-sense reforms to our budget process and force government agencies to be less wasteful with their share of appropriated taxpayer dollars.

H.R. 5085 would make two essential reforms to the existing budget process. First, in staying true to his deep-rooted commitment to personal fiscal responsibility on the part of our lawmakers, Rep. Biggs’ bill includes a “no budget, no pay” requirement that has been a hallmark of Rep. Biggs’ legislative priorities. Such a requirement would hold the federal salaries of members of Congress in escrow “if they do not agree to a budget resolution in a timely manner after the current two-year agreement ends.” The “no budget, no pay” requirement is an excellent way to hold members’ of Congress feet to the fire on the statutorily-defined budget process that is currently all but ignored.

In addition to the “no budget, no pay” requirement on members of Congress, the Budget Process Enhancement Act also includes a “no budget, no pay” requirement for the Director and Deputy Directors of the Office of Management and the Budget (OMB). Since Presidents have consistently neglected to produce their budget recommendations as statutorily required — Presidents Clinton, Bush Jr., Obama, and Trump have each submitted budgets after the statutory deadline laid out in the Congressional Budget Act — enacting a “no budget, no pay” requirement to the OMB principals would place significant pressure on the executive to comply with the law and submit their proposed budget in a timely manner.

It is important that the Executive produce its budget proposal in a timely manner so that Congress can properly consider administration input while producing its own final budget before the set deadlines. In holding OMB accountable, H.R. 5085 will further ensure a transparent and streamlined budget process.

Perhaps more importantly, the other section of the Budget Process Enhancement Act would require all agencies and departments of the federal government to specify and justify any requests for new spending beyond their appropriation from the prior cycle. H.R. 5085 would achieve this by eliminating the inflation adjustment used by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in projecting costs.

Currently, the CBO’s baseline projection includes the assumption that all spending will grow at the rate of inflation. This assumption allows federal agencies and departments to hide spending increases behind the guise of inflation, dramatically reducing transparency in the budget process. After all, it will be impossible to reign in future spending growth if the source of such growth is being masked behind CBO assumptions. As such, the Budgetary Process Enhancement Act seeks to bring the totality of these shadow funds into the daylight. In forcing agencies and departments to justify increases in funding, Congress has the opportunity to regain much of the power of the purse that it has largely ceded to executive agencies.

At a recent press conference, Rep. Biggs highlighted the importance of the Budgetary Process Enhancement Act. “One of the reasons we are in this mess is because Congress and federal agencies believe they should be immune from making the same tough spending decisions that families across the country make every week,” Rep. Biggs said. “The Budget Process Enhancement Act would put an end to decades worth of budget practices that are so egregiously sloppy and wasteful they would make even a second-rate CPA blanch. And if members of Congress are unable to do their jobs and put together responsible budgets every year, they shouldn’t see a dime of salary.”

Although H.R. 5085 has gained little traction in the Democrat-controlled House, it nevertheless presents us with a great opportunity to reform a broken budget process. FreedomWorks’ activist community applauds Rep. Biggs’ leadership on the importance of budget process reform and we look forward to his continued work towards fiscal responsibility.