The Budget Impact of The Second Continuing Resolution

The second continuing resolution [CR] for fiscal year 2011 is far more than a straight-forward, stop-gap spending bill. It is a sprawling, 423-page measure – with four “divisions” and 10 titles – that includes major policy changes, such as food safety legislation, well beyond the presumed intent to simply keep government agencies funded and running. Thus, the legislation – made necessary because not one of the regular appropriations bills for fiscal year 2011 has been enacted – is just another example of an agenda of higher spending and bigger government.

According to the Congressional Budget Office [CBO], the overall cost of base discretionary spending in the bill (H.R. 3082) is $1,090 billion. The measure also adds $159 billion to continue war-fighting efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing the total cost to $1,296 billion. But the war-fighting amounts are designated as “emergency” spending. Hence the Majority claims the bill holds base spending at approximately the same level as fiscal year 2010 – roughly $1,091 billion. 

But this claim ignores the significant spending increases of the past several years. Since fiscal year 2008, base discretionary spending has increased by 17 percent, from $933 billion to $1.09 trillion. The larger increases were in non-defense discretionary spending, which rose 23 percent, and the CR essentially remains at this elevated level.

The CR then increases spending further by assuming the 2010 spending levels for the decennial census and the Base Realignment and Closure [BRAC] process. Both activities are expiring, but the CR takes this one-time 2010 spending, totaling $11.1 billion, and spends it to increase other programs above 2010 levels.

But while the CR fails to book such potential savings, it employs $8.4 billion in one-time changes in mandatory programs [CHIMPS] to make room for even more discretionary spending increases in fiscal year 2011. These changes, however, are expected to cost $6 billion in fiscal year 2012, according to CBO, so the savings actually total just $2.4 billion over 2 years.

Read full analysis here.