November 27, 2014

Proposal Would Emphasize Long-Term Effects of Legislation

  • The federal budget process is a mixture of rules, timelines and norms that work together to influence policy decisions. It shapes how the...

A promising bipartisan proposal in the House would help lawmakers better assess the long-term benefits and costs of legislation they are considering.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) typically projects the fiscal impact of legislation over 10 years. The Long-Term SCORE Act, introduced last week by Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wisc.) and Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), would enable lawmakers to request 50-year scores instead.

This could help elected officials focus on policies that improve the government’s long-term fiscal outlook. The legislation would provide CBO with $5 million a year to help meet its additional responsibilities.

Projections over several decades involve many assumptions and variables. But they can still be useful in determining whether certain policies are sustainable and can promote long-term economic growth. They can also counteract budget gimmicks that can make legislation look more fiscally responsible than it really is.

Some lawmakers, for example, push the anticipated costs of legislation out just beyond the traditional 10-year budget window. By providing a more accurate picture, long-term scoring could put pressure on legislators to find real offsets for proposed spending or tax cuts.