WASHINGTON--Earlier today, the White House announced that there will be at least a $76 billion budget surplus for the 1999 fiscal year. The Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan group advocating fiscal discipline, today reminded the leadership of both parties that the federal government is still projected to run a deficit of $40 billion or more in FY99 if the Social Security surplus is not counted--larger than the comparable $29 billion deficit recorded in FY98.
The discrepancy involves much more than a mere bookkeeping technicality. Only by including the projected "off-budget" $117 billion surplus from Social Security will the FY99 ledger show a growing surplus.
"The Social Security program is legally and officially off-budget, and the time has come for that fact to be reflected in the public announcements by the political leadership of both parties," said Concord Coalition Executive Director Martha Phillips.
Former Sens. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Warren Rudman (R-N.H.), the co-chairs of the Concord Coalition, emphasized the need to change the budget rhetoric in a letter they sent to Congress last November. "Politicians from both parties, White House and Congress alike, still talk, act, and legislate as if laws removing Social Security from the federal budget had never been enacted. Rather than focusing only on the revenues and outlays from programs covered in the federal budget (which are in deficit), they also routinely and automatically add in the revenues and outlays from Social Security (which are in surplus) as they plan fiscal policy, enact legislation, and explain their actions to the public."