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The budget process has become a ‘polarizing tool of unified government’

Dec 14, 2021 by AFP

The congressional budget process is a mess, and the debate over the “Build Back Better” measure is Exhibit A, writes Americans for Prosperity Senior Fellow for Fiscal Policy Kurt Couchman in a new op-ed.

“The taproot of this dysfunction is considering appropriations separately from direct (sometimes called mandatory) spending and revenue,” Couchman writes in The Hill.

In contrast to the haphazard maze of federal tax and appropriations measures, many states use unified budgets that bring together all aspects of fiscal policy to create a more coherent product. Couchman explains that this system empowers states to more easily adjust priorities, providing a more sensible way to budget and a more effective way to react quickly to changed circumstances.

The opinion piece in The Hill is based on research Couchman did for a new report on the nearly half-century old budget reconciliation process, which he says has become “a twisted shadow” of its original purpose, which was “to manage direct spending and revenue policies comprehensively, in coordination with discretionary spending, and to control imbalances.”

It hasn’t worked out that way.

Reconciliation has become a “polarizing tool of unified government — however narrow — to force through sweeping policy changes while cutting out the minority party entirely.”

Read more here about how creating stand-alone reconciliation was a mistake, and how moving toward a single “unified budget” can help reduce polarization and help return Congress to productive legislating.