Sunday, February 6, 2011

Baseline Budgeting

The February 3rd issue of The Wall Street Journal has an editorial about the first budget Governor Cuomo has put forward for New York.

One issue that relates to the previous post about Brent not getting why government isn't focused relates to baseline budgeting. Cuomo is confronting this in New York where some programs have spending increases of 13% for the coming year that were previously scheduled. This means that if he proposes a 12% increase, he will be accused of cutting spending.

This also applies to the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives. The editorial's opinion blames the recent Democratic majority, but the truth is that baseline budgeting has been a problem for decades; decades where the Democrats have been dominant in Congress, but also decades where Republicans have not taken their swings at this issue when given the chance:
There's a vital lesson here for House Republicans because the same baseline games have long prevailed in Washington. The Democrats who wrote the budget rules also built in formulas that increase spending each year before Congress even takes a vote. Those same Democrats are now lying in wait for Republicans to propose their budget, and they will describe even increases in spending as brutal "cuts." The media will dutifully play along.
The really scary thing for people like Brent, who care about these issues, but are just learning the gory details of the process is that the new Republican majority may just wink and nod:

Republicans ought to follow Mr. Cuomo's savvy lead and blow the whistle on this rigged process early and often. Alas, we fear too many Republicans want to brag about their "cuts" to impress the tea party even if they come from an inflated baseline.

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