What Others Are Saying

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson is again supporting legislation to inject some common sense into budgeting and spending by the federal government. He is co-sponsor of the “End Government Shutdowns Act,” which was introduced prior to Republicans and Democrats finally agreeing on what’s called a continuing resolution to avert a shutdown of at least some part or parts of the federal government, aka the “swamp” that President Donald Trump pledged to drain.

The end-shutdowns proposal, authored by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, would automatically create a continuing resolution for any regular appropriations bill not completed by the yearly Oct. 1 deadline. Then, after 120 days the funding authorized by the resolution would be reduced by 1 percent. Thereafter, funds would be trimmed by one percent every 90 days “until Congress does its job and completes the annual appropriations process,” according to Sen. Isakson.

The senator’s news release says the bill would ensure “no more government shutdowns that create chaos for citizens who depend on federal services and cost taxpayers billions of dollars.” It also would bring “stability and predictability for government agencies,” which would be enabled to plan budgets based on a default appropriations level; and it would offer “less incentive for haphazard, last-minute budget deals” — like the one just made by Republicans, Democrats and the president.

That’s just a stop-gap measure. What’s needed is serious reform of the federal budgeting process, as Isakson outlined for the GOP public policy organization, the Ripon Society. Bottom line: There has to be a change in the system Congress follows in appropriating taxpayer money. Isakson’s answer: mandated biennial budgeting, “a common sense concept that has been endorsed by both Republican and Democratic presidents and by numerous federal budget experts.”

To make his case, Isakson points to 19 states which currently operate under two-year budget cycles. The states include New Hampshire, home of Democrat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who has worked with Isakson on the Biennial Budgeting and Appropriations Act. She has seen the results of biennial budgeting as a three-term governor. The same commonsense approach is followed in Georgia, which has something else unknown to Congress — a balanced budget, required by law as is true in most states.

Under the Isakson plan, Congress would devote the first budget year to appropriating money and the second year to overseeing federal programs. He contends this “would allow for better oversight before we start spending more,” adding: “Oversight is critical to running a business or even a household, and it should be a priority when spending taxpayer dollars.”

Isakson argues that biennial budgeting would fix Washington’s debt problem, help reduce spending by allowing Congress and federal agencies time “to learn what is working and what is not,” and by providing time for adequate review of spending.

The senator says an increasing number of his colleagues in the Senate have come to see the wisdom of biennial budgeting, noting that in 2013 the Isakson-Shaheen proposal passed the Senate 68-31 as an amendment to the annual budget resolution. Unfortunately, the legislation was non-binding although it did lead to both the Senate Budget and House Budget committees including biennial budget versions in separate proposals.

Now, Isakson wants President Trump, “our nation’s new businessman-in-chief,” to take a close look at the proposal which “may very well make its way to his desk, and it would be a wise investment in our nation’s future for him to sign it.”

Let’s hope the bill does indeed make it to the president’s desk and he indeed signs it. If budget and spending reform cannot be done with a Republican president and Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, it will never be done.

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Don McKee is a Cobb County resident.