Ross Testifies at House Budget Committee Hearing
Encourages Committee to Vote on His “ZERO Act”
Mar 8 -
U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross (FL-15) testified at the House Budget Committee hearing this past week in support of his bill, H.R. 239, the Zero-Based Budgeting Ensures Responsible Oversight Act (ZERO Act). Below are his remarks:
“Thank you members of the Budget Committee for your time and for this opportunity to engage in the dialogue regarding the budget.
“I have introduced H.R. 239, the Zero-based-budgeting Ensures Responsible Oversight, or ZERO Act, which requires agencies and departments to draft their budgets starting at a zero baseline, instead of current funding levels as they do today. To do that, my bill requires every department under the President’s Budget to Congress to provide four things:
1) Provide a description of each activity that requires an appropriation from Congress;
2) Cite to Congress the legal basis under which they may lawfully receive an appropriation;
3) Offer three alternative funding levels;
4) Provide a summary of the cost effectiveness to the taxpayer for each activity that requires an appropriation from Congress.
“This is to ensure that every expenditure is justified. Removing the baseline from agency and department budgets and implementing zero-based budgeting instead would get rid of the automatic spending increases that encourage increased spending. For these reasons, I would like to speak to you about budget process reform and the need to pass the ZERO Act into law.
“As the Citizens Against Government Waste explained in their support of my bill:
‘Baseline budgeting is one of the most sinister ways that politicians claim to cut spending when they are actually increasing spending. For example, if an agency's budget is projected to grow by $100 million, but only grows by $75 million, according to baseline budgeting, that agency sustained a $25 million cut. That is equivalent to someone who expects to gain 100 pounds [but] only gaining 75 pounds [and takes] credit for losing 25 pounds. The federal government is the only place where this absurd logic is employed.’
“Zero-based budgeting has been widely successful with state and local governments.
“Since 2008, Idaho has taken zero-based budgeting one step forward and used it as a tool to prioritize programs based on statutory requirements. Under the direction of Governor Butch Otter, the Idaho Budget Bureau is identifying programs and activities outside of the central mission of the agency, eliminating or moving programs to other agencies that are not in line with the central mission of the agency, and has been able to better prioritize agency resources and functions accordingly. Idaho has used zero-based budgeting for strategic planning and prioritizing, which has put agencies in a better position to make recommendations when faced with tough budget cuts.
“We just took a $42 billion across-the-board cut without any attempt to prioritize agency and department missions. Sequestration was bad policy and we could have been avoided it had we addressed the cuts ahead of time. If Congress had used the zero-based budgeting application as required under H.R. 239 and given agencies and departments a chance to review their activities and streamline duplicative programs, we would not be in this battle of who to blame over sequestration. And our finances would be better for it.
“Furthermore, zero-based budgeting also has support across the aisles.
“Initially introduced the late 1970s, the administration then implemented zero-based budgeting to control expenditures within agencies’ budgets. In 1976, under a Democratic Congress, appropriating committees asked selected independent agencies to test the applicability of zero-based budgeting, and the agency requests were available for review by the authorizing committees. Agencies were required to consider alternate levels of funding for discretionary programs, sometimes three to four different alternatives, and the practice lasted until 1994. My bill requires very similar details.
“With America facing $16 trillion in debt, and credit rating agencies demanding that we put ourselves on a path to pay off that debt to remain credit-worthy, it is time to re-think how Congress writes our budgets. If American families and business know how to assess their spending and programs every year, so should Congress. It is imperative that we do away with the baseline budgeting tricks and gimmicks and become better stewards of the taxpayers’ money. I urge the committee to pass H.R. 239, the ZERO Act, to smoke out waste in the federal agencies and departments, and put taxpayer spending in check.
“Thank you and I yield back the balance of my time.”