“YES” on the RSC’s Blueprint for a Balanced Budget
On Wednesday, the House will vote on the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget offered by the Republican Study Committee. The RSC’s Blueprint for a Balanced Budget, introduced by Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) 87% and Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) 84%, would balance in six years, reduce non-defense discretionary spending, reestablish national defense spending to support the military, repeal and replace Obamacare, reform Medicare and Medicaid, safeguard Social Security, and enact pro-growth tax reform.
Earlier this month, Heritage Action put forward four criteria any conservative budget must include. If passed, the RSC’s budget would give lawmakers a serious blueprint for reform. It would also help drive the narrative that President Obama and his partisan allies as obstructionists seeking to protect special interests.
Repealing Obamacare. Republicans owe their majorities to their unwavering opposition to Obamacare, a reality that is reflected in the RSC’s budget. Not only does the budget propose to fully repeal the law, but it promises to use the budget reconciliation process to achieve that objective. Doing so sends a signal to everyone that Obamacare remains unsettled law, and its fate will be determined by the outcome of the 2016 elections.
Funding Defense. Although the Budget Control Act of 2011 has put significant pressure on our military, a conservative budget would align military spending with strategic priorities by breaking the firewall. The RSC’s budget does not rely on the much-discussed OCO gimmick, which “actually jeopardize[s] our military.” Instead, it increases defense spending to $570 billion in FY16, which is $47 billion above the current defense cap. Importantly, that cost is more than offset by lowering non-defense discretionary spending to $405 billion in FY16, which is $88 billion below the cap. This is the appropriate way to prioritize.
Reforming Entitlements. The RSC’s budget maintains the Medicare premium support reforms, which are widely established and broadly supported. In addition, the budget lays down bold markers on Social Security, Social Security Disability Insurance and Medicaid. It takes a similarly aggressive approach on mandatory program spending like food stamps (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF.
Eliminating Budget Gimmicks. A conservative budget cannot play games or use gimmicks to achieve balance. One knock against the RSC’s budget is that it adopts the current, inflated revenue baseline, which includes revenue raised by Obamacare and the 2012 fiscal cliff deal, among other things. The budget assumes that any loss in revenues from fully repealing Obamacare and reversing other tax increases would be covered by a corresponding increase in revenues generated by the growth of the economy from tax reform. That the amount of such “dynamically scored” revenues from pro-growth tax reform just so happens to be the same as the current baseline has led many conservatives to describe this particular provision as a budget gimmick. A reduction in the overall tax burden would have been preferable.
Other important items in the budget include: separation of food stamps and farm programs; elimination of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; devolution of federal highways spending modeled after the Transportation Empowerment Act; empowerment of states in higher education accreditation modeled after the Higher Education Reform and Opportunity (HERO) Act; and delegation of elementary and secondary education to states and localities modeled after the Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success (A-PLUS) Act.
Taken as a whole, the RSC’s “Blueprint for a Balanced Budget” demonstrates a seriousness of purpose when it comes to the type of reforms we need to create a strong economy, ensure our national security and return government to its appropriate role thereby allowing civil society to flourish.
Heritage Action supports the RSC’s Blueprint for a Balanced Budget and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.