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Testimony by G. William Hoagland: Biennial Budgeting, An Improvement to Current Budget and Appropriation Process

BPC Senior Vice President G. William Hoagland testified before the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriation Process Reform regarding the long-debated, but never agreed to, biennial budget and appropriation reform proposal.

Co-Chairs Womack and Lowey and members of the Committee,

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before the Committee. In 1985 on the 10th anniversary of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act, a young House Minority whip and member of the House Rules Committee, wrote:

“The budget process has been attacked from both within and without as a repugnant, redundant, irrelevant, meaningless, misleading, phony, funny-money, number-cooking, smoke-and-mirror system. To an extent it is all those things at different times. But it also provides a framework for congressional decision making that is real and meaningful.”

Thirty-three years later, those words of former Congressman Trent Lott still apply.

You, your fellow legislators and most importantly the public know that the current federal budgeting and appropriation process has not been and is not working effectively today. But its survival nearly half a decade, speaks to the fundamental need for Congress to maintain a fiscal framework for its decision making.

Out of the last 10 years, Congress has failed to adopt what I consider to be a real conference report on a budget resolution 7 times. Only 4 times in the previous 34 years did Congress fail in this responsibility.

In fairness, I do not consider the last two resolutions for FY2017 or FY2018 to be real resolutions as envisioned by the Budget Act. Both were adopted well after their due date and only as a means to the end of creating a fast track process to create a non-filibuster proof bill in the U.S. Senate.

Our current budget procedures, rules, concepts, and processes are so complex that members and their staffs find them hard to understand, let alone the American taxpayer.

Nonetheless, I do not think anyone believes today, even if a budget resolution conference agreement were reached annually on April 15 as the current law requires that Congress is capable of completing 12 appropriation bills within – effectively – the four months remaining before the new fiscal year begins.

Further continuing resolutions, weaken the power of the purse, and Omni or Cromni appropriation bills disenfranchise members. They are written by a small group of people at the last minute and enacted well into the fiscal year, as was the case this fiscal year and last. 

My testimony, therefore, focuses on the long-debated, but never agreed to, biennial budget and appropriation reform proposal.

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