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house Bill H.R. 507

Should the Federal Gov’t Stop Using Budget Baselines and Justify All Spending Each Year?

Argument in favor

By instituting zero-baseline budgeting, federal agencies would be forced to justify all their spending and end the “use it or lose it” attitude that leads to unnecessary spending so as to justify keeping the funding next year. That will save taxpayer dollars and cause lead to wiser spending.

libertyLOL's Opinion
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05/12/2017
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haysak's Opinion
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05/12/2017
Isn't this obvious? Instead of telling them to spend money, we tell them to justify their spending
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Gary's Opinion
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05/12/2017
No private business could exist with this. Anything we can do to restrain government spending should be done.
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Argument opposed

The federal government is the largest organization on Earth, and just because there’s some wasteful spending that doesn’t mean federal agencies should have to justify everything they spend tax dollars on. They should be able to make reasonable assumptions about budget baselines.

Alan's Opinion
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05/12/2017
Well meaning legislation that a) has no idea of the complexity of what is asking for and b) abdicates congress' responsibility for tracking its own past appropriations.
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Ron's Opinion
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05/12/2017
Agree in principle that you shouldn't automatically get what you had last year, but I see a huge amount of wasteful work to go through a budget. Maybe every two years at most. Bigger question. Who approves it? Surely not a bunch of people working for this administration.
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AaronLMGoodwin's Opinion
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05/12/2017
I'm all for Zero-based budgeting, but the additional requirements of this bill would place excessive burdens on agencies.
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What is House Bill H.R. 507?

This bill — the ZERO Act — would require federal agencies to submit budget requests each year that assume the baseline budget is zero, meaning that they have to justify spending on all existing and newly requested programs. A department or agency budget would have to include a description of each activity; the legal basis for the activity; three alternative funding levels with the priorities that could be accomplished at each, two of which must be below the current level; and measures of cost efficiency for each activity.

This bill’s full title is the Zero-based Budgeting Ensures Responsible Oversight (ZERO) Act of 2017.

Impact

Taxpayers; federal agencies; and the president.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 507

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) has introduced versions of zero baseline budget legislation in the last several sessions of Congress, saying in 2015:

“We have to justify our existence every day in the private sector — changes to attitudes, trends. You have to adapt. Government doesn’t adapt. Instead it just incrementally adds on. We should be painfully honest with the American people, because it’s their money. When we do the budget process, we want to have some justification for every appropriation that is sought — a legal basis for it, an amount that is less than last year’s and a summary to express the outcome of it.”


Of Note: The federal government last used zero-based budgeting during the administration of former President Jimmy Carter,but the way its implementation was complex, time-consuming, and ultimately didn’t result in savings. As detailed in GovExec, the Carter administration used zero-based budgeting by requiring each agency to identify “decision units” in its budget, which created “decision packages” detailing proposed spending with four different funding levels. Managers then ranked those decision packages and advanced them up the bureaucracy for more review and prioritization. When the Reagan administration took office, they abandoned the practice.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: Public Domain)

AKA

Zero-based Budgeting Ensures Responsible Oversight (ZERO) Act of 2017

Official Title

To require zero-based budgeting for departments and agencies of the Government.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on the Budget
    IntroducedJanuary 12th, 2017
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    Like (53)
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    Well meaning legislation that a) has no idea of the complexity of what is asking for and b) abdicates congress' responsibility for tracking its own past appropriations.
    Like (108)
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    Agree in principle that you shouldn't automatically get what you had last year, but I see a huge amount of wasteful work to go through a budget. Maybe every two years at most. Bigger question. Who approves it? Surely not a bunch of people working for this administration.
    Like (57)
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    I'm all for Zero-based budgeting, but the additional requirements of this bill would place excessive burdens on agencies.
    Like (56)
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    Isn't this obvious? Instead of telling them to spend money, we tell them to justify their spending
    Like (46)
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    Government exists to serve the people. Expenses cannot always be anticipated. (natural disasters, etc) This is a really bad idea masquerading as a simple solution, but the role of government would be completely hamstrung. Which is, of course, what this is actually about. The Republicans are attempting to destroy the government from within.
    Like (38)
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    No private business could exist with this. Anything we can do to restrain government spending should be done.
    Like (30)
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    Stop the overhauling and remodeling you idiots. The house is on fire. A compromised-by-Russia, banana-republic, white-nationalist authoritarian is in the White House burning down the Republic and you want to tinker on policy or even attempt to overhaul governmental processes when you don't have a mandate. You have a bear majority, nothing more.
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    I agree with the question as posted by Countable but I do NOT agree with this bill. It is going to be impossible to accomplish literally anything.
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    In the old days, next years budget was this years plus 10-15%. This lead to unwanted and un-needed purchasing at the end of the budget year. All money left in a yearly budget should be zeroed out with each new budget. If a department requires greater expenditures, it should be expressed in the new budget. Good financial practices will lead to a lower overall budgeting. And let's not forget, if we place a sunset date on expenditures, the zero themselves.
    Like (20)
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    Without any financial justification, all agencies tend to expect a budget increase every year. If programs cease or projects complete, agencies continue wanting those funds and reallocate internally. It time to fix this ever growing, inefficient government of ours.
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    Well meaning but flawed. Does not take into account the complexity of budgeting and vital activities of our government agencies.
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    Being from a military background I saw the use it or lose it maxim in effect every year. It never made sense to spend money that was not necessary to the unit or mission. It was a form of sanctioned fraud, waste and abuse.
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    Get rid of wasteful spending. Use taxpayers money for a truly good purpose. Have a clear reason as to WHY you need the money for the programs. Good for budgeting.
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    Planning and justifying your budget is done by individuals and organizations. Governments should not be an exception.
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    As a retired accountant I'm familiar with this budget method, called zero based budgeting, and while it is a useful tool every 5-10 years, it would be very costly and time consuming to do it every year. Given the amount of rancor in the government today, the development of a zero based budget could take years. Bad idea.
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    For people who complain about government waste so much, Republicans are sure good at finding ways to waste time, and as in all things, time is money. Agencies would have to hire new personnel just to fulfill this requirement. Sometimes I really question the judgement of House Republicans, beyond even their nonsensical ideology. Rep. Ross speaks of being "painfully honest." Honestly, I can't remember the last example of Republican honesty, painful or otherwise, so what makes him think we should trust them now?
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    Yes they should have to justify anew every year why they shouldn't be completely written out. And then, when every last one of them inevitably fails to justify their existence, they should all be written out.
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    I have to live on a strick budget or I could loose everything. I also know people in government jobs who bring home boxes of supplies at the end of every year because they have to use it to get it next year. It is waste and graft run amuck. Our government agencies need to account for their supplies accurately and remain on budget.
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    Absolutely yes
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