What Others Are Saying

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Hill: A biennial budget makes sense

Last week, the Senate Budget Committee held a hearing to vote on implementing a biennial budget - which would shift from an annual to a two-year process. Congress is now presented an opportunity to implement a more responsible spending plan.

In this current political climate the proper budgetary process is routinely ignored. This leads Congress to resort to continuing resolutions, effectively spending in the next fiscal year what was spent the previous fiscal year without really evaluating the utility of the expenditures.

Over the last 5 years, Congress has passed 25 continuing resolutions - that's 25 occasions where, for lack of a better option, time, consensus or all of the above, our government lacked the ability to prepare for and implement a more efficient budget.

The current disregard for the budget and appropriations process is an example of the havoc partisan politics has wrought on our governing practices. Each year, the budget is held hostage by one party, or both, pinning all hopes on one small PIECE of the larger budgetary puzzle. Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) are leading the charge to move away from the annual budget wars and on to a more sensible approach.

In his address to the Senate last week, Isakson stated, "We are here today arguing over a continuing resolution that we shouldn’t have to argue over if we would have been budgeting and appropriating over the last four years. There is bipartisan responsibility for not having adopted budgets or appropriations acts."

Politics has overrun sensible legislation, and it's time to take it back.

The implementation of a biennial budget would allow Congress to prepare for the next two fiscal years. With this setup, each Congress would divide its sessions into two parts: the first year to include preparing and completing the budget and spending bills; the second year to evaluate the efficacy of programs under the federal budget.

At No Labels - a national organization of Democrats, Republicans and Independents focused on breaking through partisanship in Washington - we believe committing to a two-year budgetary process would be a step in the right direction for our government. We support a biennial budget as part of our Make Government Work legislative package put forth in 2013 by the Problem Solver Caucus, which aims to take the hyper-partisanship out of governing and restore a common-sense approach to problem solving. If Congress can avoid a yearly budget battle, we may see the budget evolve from political pawn to responsible governing.

By eliminating the yearly scramble in Congress to approve a budget, members of Congress would be able to focus on reviewing and assessing the spending efficiency of federal agencies, and anticipating fiscal adjustments needed in the future. Inherent in this process would be an increase in bipartisanship - taking a hard, analytical look at how funds are being used within federal programs would require less rhetoric and more joint research, which could result in streamlined budgets, and less ballooning national debt.  Of course, emergency appropriations in the second year could still be address when absolutely required.

No Labels believes that the process of goal setting can help solve our nation's biggest problems. Most Americans, regardless of party affiliation, want to see our national debt reduced. To that end, we've created a National Strategic Agenda that can unify Congress and our next president around a set of four goals, including balancing the federal budget by 2030.

These goals transcend party politics - they are goals that will help break through the gridlock of Washington politics and are goals created with direct input from Americans. With these goals, Congress and next president can take steps toward resolution, making our country stronger, more efficient, and prosperous. They are:

Create 25 million new jobs in the next 10 years

Secure Social Security and Medicare for the next 75 years

Balance the federal budget by 2030

Make America energy secure by 2024

A biennial budget would go a long way toward creating a process for goal setting and in breaking through gridlock in D.C. By removing the yearly scramble and the hyper-partisanship that accompanies the budget vote, Congress would have a clearer path to reach the goal of a balanced budget - which is ultimately what we all want.

A biennial budget is not a Republican or a Democratic ideal - it's a process that could produce a more efficient, effective, organized and responsible government and thriving economy. Carper and Isakson are the kind of bipartisan visionaries in Congress who can lead the effort to make this a reality, and take that first step toward reducing our national debt.

We commend Sens. Carper and Isakson for their push for responsibility and efficiency, and for taking a bold step toward making Congress work.

Riddle is co-founder of No Labels, former chief of staff to former Sen. Joe Lieberman, and former attorney general of Connecticut.