R Street policy study: Examining the case for biennial budgeting

 

Washington (Feb. 6, 2018) – Biennial budgeting has been suggested for decades as a potential reform that would help alleviate many of the ills within the broken congressional budgeting process. In a new policy paper, R Street Institute Governance Fellow Casey Burgat takes stock of the proposed advantages and criticisms associated with transitioning the federal government to a biennial, rather than annual budget cycle: “Proponents of a biennial budget argue that transitioning to a two-year cycle would allow better long-term planning and consideration of funding measures, more time for spending oversight and evaluation, and would reduce the amount of time members spend on repetitive budget matters. Critics, however, contend that biennial budgeting would produce less accurate fiscal forecasts, increased reliance on supplemental appropriations and provide no guarantee that any resulting time savings would be spent on oversight. Unsurprisingly, no consensus has emerged.”

Burgat ultimately argues that while the adoption of such a framework would likely result in marginal improvements in fiscal planning and evaluation for agencies and programs, it is unlikely that major benefits would be realized due to the true differences in spending priorities between the two parties, as well as the potential for political gain associated with the current processes: “Let’s be clear: Biennial budgeting will not solve the budget woes plaguing Congress. In actuality, its adoption could potentially make them worse.”

 

 

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