This week, members of the House and Senate will vote on a budget deal that will fund the government through the end of Fiscal Year 2017 which ends in September. The spending deal includes $1.163 trillion in funding, but fails to create any meaningful change for taxpayers.
It should be noted from the get-go that this spending deal only wraps up the remainder of Fiscal Year 2017, and President Trump’s first official budget outline, that he released in March, applies to Fiscal Year 2018 that begins October 1.
There were low expectations for major changes in the remainder of this fiscal year, but perceived expectations do not change the fact that this is yet another punt by our federal officials. There were no substantive changes to prioritize spending or get our finances in order. Indeed, the only changes involved increasing spending.
Highlights include: $1.5 billion for border security (not the wall), an increase of $2 billion for the National Institutes of Health (now $36 billion total), and a $20 billion increase in defense funding. It also includes a bailout of miner’s pensions for Appalachia states and more than $8 billion in increased funding for disaster relief.
President Trump’s FY 2018 budget requested a $54 billion increase in military spending, but also planned to pay for the increase with reductions in other spending areas. This bill does not pay for its increased military spending, and instead, will add to our nation’s already unsustainable national debt.
While expectations for this spending bill to address long-term problems were low, the lack of accountability and reform is hardly surprising. As we reported previously, “while elected officials will often tout the need for cutting spending in theory, when the time comes to make budgeting decisions, bipartisanship usually breaks out in favor of spending more of your tax dollars.” Unfortunately, this statement will come to fruition this week, and, like most weeks, Washington talked the talk but failed to walk the walk.
However, while this budget is largely “politics as usual,” there is a small win for taxpayers. Inserted in the spending bill is language that will have direct impact on how federal grant recipients report their funding. Last week, in conjunction with the White Coat Waste Project, we released a report that highlighted the Ivy League’s inability to comply with federal law (Steven’s Amendment) that requires disclosure of government funding details. This week, the spending bill includes language that requires federal grant recipients to disclose in a press release, or other documents, whether federal funds were used for a project, and if so, how much.
While the language is important, it is essential that Congress does the oversight to ensure that federal funding recipients comply with the requirements so that citizens and groups like Restore Accountability can assess if a project is worth taxpayers dollars.
In conclusion, lawmakers did nothing to address our country’s long-term fiscal deficiencies, and instead, opted to once again kick the can down the road. In the coming months, Restore Accountability will continue to advocate for a budget that will account for our country’s long-term needs so that future generations will have the tools to succeed.