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April 02, 2013 8:01 am

EDITORIAL: In search of a federal budget

Written by Dave Bonner

For the first time since 2009, both houses of Congress have passed budget resolutions.

Now that sounds cockeyed, but it’s true. The United States Senate had not passed a budget in four years until last week. Prodded by “No Budget, No Pay” directive, both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate passed non-binding budget resolutions.

You can call it progress. We have budget resolutions, but we don’t have a federal budget. There’s no assurance we will get one. That’s how far apart the two budget documents are.

The Democratically-controlled Senate proposes spending $3.7 trillion in the next fiscal year, financed in part with $1 trillion in new taxes in the next 10 years. The Republican-majority House budget calls for $3.5 trillion in spending in the next fiscal year, on the way to a balanced budget in 10 years without a tax increase by reining in entitlement programs.

They are radically different visions. When Congress returns to work after the Easter recess, there will be attempt in conference to work out the differences in the two budget framework plans. The art of compromise could prevail, but don’t hold your breath.

In Wyoming, as in many states, the concept of government without a budget doesn’t mesh. Budgets are limiting. Budgets are governing. Budgets are controlling. At the state level, if it’s not in the budget, and you don’t have transfer authority from another section of the budget, you can’t spend.

A cynic may suggest that’s precisely why Congress will not follow a budget-setting discipline. Absent a budget framework, Congress can make appropriations without the confines of budgetary restraint.

We get, as a result, a burgeoning federal deficit. But that’s not all, and this is perhaps the most crippling fallout: People lose confidence in government.

Disillusionment with government is fueled by Congress thumbing its nose at the law (and the people) by failing to pass a budget.

Note to Washington lawmakers: Help yourself and the people who elected you. Do a budget.

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