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Thune Introduces Common Sense Budget Reform Bill

Proposal to tackle runaway spending and borrowing, reduce deficit

July 27, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC —  U.S. Senator John Thune today introduced legislation that will begin to tackle the nation's ballooning $13 trillion debt by reforming the budget process and cutting federal spending and borrowing.

“As families across our country make tough financial choices to live within their means, Washington continues to spend borrowed money at an alarming and dangerous rate,” said Thune. “My bill would cut and cap spending, reform the broken budget process, end the trust fund dishonesty, and create a new permanent joint Congressional committee tasked with continuously cutting the deficit without raising taxes. While my proposal will not be a cure-all for our nation's economic woes, it would fundamentally change the way Congress does business.

“Our dangerous national debt is not an issue we can continue to pass along to future generations of Americans. This legislation is a necessary first step toward reining in Washington's runaway spending habits, while restoring fiscal accountability to our government.”

Thune's budget reform legislation, The Deficit Reduction and Budget Reform Act of 2010, takes a three-pronged approach to reducing the rapidly expanding burden of growing debt and deficits for American families and businesses. By imposing strict new limits on federal spending, reforming the budget process, and creating a new standing committee of Congress for budget deficit reduction, Congress can prove to the American people that it is serious about cutting spending and growing our economy.

Details of Thune's legislation are outlined below.

Part I: Eliminating Wasteful Spending

Discretionary Spending Caps

Establishes binding discretionary spending caps for all non-defense, non-veteran, non-homeland security discretionary spending from 2011 to 2020. Discretionary spending caps are set at Fiscal Year 2008 levels adjusted for inflation, and any bill that exceeds the spending caps is subject to a point of order.

Stop Stimulus Spending

Ends unobligated stimulus spending on September 30, 2010. Stimulus tax provisions would be allowed to expire on December 31, 2010 as enacted by the stimulus bill.

Part II: Budget Reform

Improving PAYGO and Trust Fund Accounting

Reforms PAYGO rules to prevent the double-counting of new revenues or reduced spending in trust funds for the purposes of offsetting other expenditures. Over $600 billion in trust fund offsets were used to pass the health care reform bill and earlier this year an attempt was made to increase the per-barrel tax for the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund to offset other non-related tax measures. By preventing these changes from being used as an offset under PAYGO rules in the future, this provision would end the practice of double accounting these spending reductions and revenue increases.

Binding Federal Budget

Reforms the budget process by requiring a binding joint budget resolution. Since the joint resolution would have to be signed into law, the Administration and Congress are forced to work more closely on the joint budget resolution and Congress would have less flexibility to violate this resolution.

Biennial Budget

Establishes a biennial budgeting timeline. In odd numbered years, Congress would pass two-year biennial budgets. In even numbered years, Congress would pass two-year appropriation bills. A biennial budget would give Congress more time for oversight of government spending during even numbered years. This provision is particularly important because Congress has only completed all of the annual appropriation bills on time in four of the last 34 years.

Legislative Line-Item Veto

Creates a legislative line-item veto. The President may propose to Congress a cancellation of any discretionary spending item, direct spending item, limited tariff benefit or targeted tax benefit contained within a bill or joint resolution. Upon Congressional approval, any cancellations must be applied to reducing the deficit or increasing a surplus.

Part III: New Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction

Standing Joint Committee of Congress on Deficit Reduction

Creates a permanent Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction composed of a bipartisan group of 20 members—10 from the House of Representatives and 10 from the Senate. Every other year, the new Joint Committee must introduce legislation that eliminates or reduces spending on wasteful government programs and achieves a savings of at least 10 percent of the previous year’s budget deficit. The legislation to reduce spending or wasteful programs would receive expedited consideration in the House and Senate.