House Passes Baseline Reform Act

While the Internets have been buzzing over the “Big Mac” debate between Georgia Seventh District Congressman Rob Woodall and Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen, the ultimate good news is that the bill being discussed, the Baseline Reform Act, was passed by the House on Tuesday.

The effect of the bill would be to eliminate automatic annual increases in discretionary government spending in the later years of the 10 year budget window. Mandatory spending would not be affected. In the past, the Congressional Budget Office assumed a rate of growth based on inflation in projecting future outlays. The effect of this was to assume ever increasing federal budgets.

Conservatives have complained over the years that the automatic baseline increases allowed supporters of a program to complain its budget was being cut, even if more was being spent than the previous year, if that increase was less that what the previous projected amount specified. By the same token, budget hawks will no longer be allowed to say they had cut spending on a program they didn’t like if there was no reduction in funding from the previous year, but only a cut in the projected baseline.

Congressman Woodall, who introduced the resolution last year, touted the benefits of his bill in a press release:

“Budgets are about choices and priorities,” said Woodall. “This bill is about making those Congressional choices transparent to the American people. At a time of record debt and deficits we in Congress owe it to the American people to not spend one more penny of their money without carefully justifying it. Acting as if we are hostages to our past spending habits will only yield more of the same results: higher spending and greater borrowing. I’m excited to lead this opportunity for a new path, one that provides taxpayers with the transparency needed to hold their government accountable.”

With much of the current conversation on Capitol Hill centering on the budget, Woodall is a prominent voice. He is a member of the House Budget Committee, Chairman of the Republican Study Committee’s Budget and Spending Task Force, and Chairman of the Rules Committee Budget Subcommittee. He was joined in this effort by Chairman Paul Ryan of the Budget Committee who expressed his support by saying, “I want to thank Congressmen Woodall and Gohmert (TX-01) for offering this bill. We should write the federal budget the same way that a family writes its own budget. You don’t just assume you will spend more on the same item every year. You figure out what works and what needs fixing. It’s our job to set priorities and to assess the results. And that’s why I’m proud to support this bill.”

It’s not exactly zero based budgeting, and ultimately, it doesn’t dictate spending amounts. It will make the budget process more transparent, assuming it gets passed by the Senate and signed into law by the President. It’s too bad there’s a slim to none chance of that happening over the next few years.