A Publication of WTVP

Over the past several years the national treasury has been flush with additional tax revenue, which in turn allowed Congress to craft balanced federal budgets.

The balanced budgets over the past four years represent the first black-ink budgets in a generation. This era of surpluses created the opportunity to start making significant strides toward eliminating our national debt, a high priority of mine.

But the economy began to cool in 2000, hit a recession in 2001, and was deeply altered by the September 11 terrorist attacks. As a result of the economic decline, the federal revenue projections for Fiscal Year 2003 are short of what was projected just a year ago. What this means is that the budget situation will be a lot tighter this year than it was in recent years. 

The annual budget process only begins upon submission of the President’s budget. Those are his recommendations, but it is Congress which ultimately determines what is contained in budget and appropriations bills. Later this Spring the House and Senate will pass a Budget Resolution that determines the spending priorities and parameters for the year. The Budget Resolution does not need the approval of the President, but the two Congressional chambers must agree.

Once the Budget Resolution is finalized, the Appropriations Committee crafts the annual spending bills within the limits set by the Resolution. There are 13 separate appropriations bills that cover every program and project funded by the federal government. The federal Fiscal Year begins October 1 of each year, and that is the target completion date for all appropriations bills. With all of federal spending covered by these bills, and due to the controversial issues in several bills, often they are delayed past October 1. Under that circumstance, funding for an agency is usually continued at the past year’s level until an appropriations bill becomes law.

When the President unveiled his proposed budget last month, the administration called for a return to deficit spending, largely due to measures taken in response to September 11. The President’s budget called for a 2003 deficit of about $90 billion.

This proposed deficit is something we can eliminate before enacting a final budget. The economic stimulus package pulled from consideration by the Senate was part of the President’s proposal. Since the stimulus is now dead, we can make up most of that $90 billion deficit by using just the money the President proposed for the package.

The President’s emphasis on homeland security and increased defense spending is long overdue. I believe we can carry out these priorities and fund other important programs without dipping into the red.

I have joined a coalition of House Republicans in an effort to craft a balanced budget for the next fiscal year. It is our hope the Senate and the administration will join us in the effort to spend only what we have and protect future generations from paying off borrowed debt by enacting a budget that it balanced. IBI