Despite significant flaws, the FY15 spending package is moving in a direction that taxpayers will be relieved to discover: it decreases spending by $11.1 billion relative to last year. Colloquially termed the “cromnibus,” the bill contains an omnibus that provides funding for most of the government through the end of the 2015 fiscal year and a continuing resolution to fund the Department of Homeland Security through the end of February. This split will give the new Congress an opportunity to reexamine the spending priorities of that agency next year.
When trying to cut last minute deals, it’s no small feat to write a bill that’s a little leaner when it could be so much easier to beef outlays across the board and pile on even more pork to grease the wheels of Congress. Negotiators have earned praise for decreasing the burden of government on taxpayers at a time when fiscal restraint is so urgently needed.
While lower spending, even by this modest amount, is a clear win for taxpayers, the bill contains a mix of good and bad provisions.
Here’s a quick run-down of how some major taxpayer concerns pan out:
- • Reauthorization of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) with $60 million in new funding. OPIC is the “sister” of the Export-Import Bank and provides taxpayer-backed direct loans and other forms of financing in emerging economies for projects such as a luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel in Turkey. Learn more here.
- $5.4 billion for Ebola operations in un-offset emergency spending above and beyond the Ryan-Murray budget agreement caps– with more than half of it going to domestic hospital “preparedness.” This kind of funding should be paid for and included in the normal budget process.
- $6.5 billion in disaster aid that was designated as “emergency” funding to once again skirt the budget caps.
- Requiring the U.S. Postal Service to continue delivery service 6 days a week despite a $5.5 billion loss in FY14.
- A $240 million plus-up for four more F-35 aircraft over the Pentagon’s request. The F-35 has a troubled track record in terms of safety, effectiveness, delays and enormous cost-overruns. NTU has long advocated against this wasteful project and increasing the buy is fiscally irresponsible.
- The FY15 spending package rejects Pentagon-requested cost-saving efforts, missing out on opportunities to conserve precious taxpayer resources. Our friends at Taxpayers for Common Sense have more on this here.
- A $1 billion increase in the Pentagon’s procurement budget.
- Budget gimmicks: a lot of the savings relative to last year comes from a smaller Overseas Contingency Operations Fund, now pegged at $73.7 billion – however, this is still far more money than the $65.8 billion the Administration requested and there’s even more “slush” than before thanks to base budget spending shifts. There’s also nearly $20 billion in changes in mandatory spending programs (or CHIMPS); almost no real savings will be achieved by these illusory reductions that merely shift spending into subsequent years. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has more information here.
- No new funding for Obamacare – in particular, taxpayer dollars can’t be used to bail out insurers through the “Risk Corridor” scheme. NTU has worked to eliminate this bailout and you can find more information here.
- A $10 million cut to the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).
- A short term extension of the Internet Tax Freedom Act – ensuring taxpayers won’t see a tax hike on their Internet access through September 30, 2015.
- $345.6 million cut to the Internal Revenue Service, and restrictions on targeting non-profit organizations for their ideological beliefs.
- A $60 million cut to the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Even with a few good reforms in this legislation, lawmakers overlooked or deliberately bypassed many chances to achieve real, additional savings. The FY15 cromnibus will hopefully be one of many steps taken by Congress to restore the government to a sustainable, responsible fiscal position.