The Bipartisan Policy Center commends Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) for their bipartisan introduction of legislation that would create a “Commission on Evidence-based Policymaking.” This move precedes and could inform what is likely to be a multi-year effort on comprehensive tax reform. Once again, these lawmakers have come together to bust political stalemates. One year ago they brokered a two-year budget agreement that prevented a government shutdown and modified discretionary spending caps while achieving some small deficit-reduction.
The Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2014 (S. 2952/H.R. 5754) proposes a 15-member commission that would examine improving federal data used in evaluating spending and tax programs, while protecting the privacy rights of the public from which basic data comes. Commission members representing “disciplines relevant to program evaluation and data management, including economics, statistics and data security” would be appointed by Senate majority and minority leaders, House speaker and minority leader, and the president.
The commission could recommend policies to simplify what is today a complex web of data sources, infrastructure and protocols used to evaluate federal spending and tax programs. Commissioners would have 15 months following appointment to finalize, approve and submit their recommendations to the president and Congress (provided 75 percent of commissioners agree).
At a time when Washington seems geared up for political posturing, Senator Murray and Congressman Ryan’s pragmatic leadership reminds us that Congress can still come together to tackle problems and offer fresh perspectives – in this case, a stronger evidence base for public spending and tax policies. Should this bill be enacted, we hope that the commission not only informs difficult policy decisions but also is a bellwether of a constructive dialogue for achieving meaningful reforms that simplify the tax code, drive efficiencies in federal spending, boost economic growth and put America on a stronger fiscal path.