David Walker & William Galston: The Future of “No Budget, No Pay”

Two of my fellow co-founders of No Labels — former Comptroller General Dave Walker and former Clinton Administration policy expert Bill Galston — discussed the future of No Labels’ hallmark legislative proposal, No Budget No Pay, in today’s The Hill.  Here’s an excerpt:

Although most citizens may find it hard to believe these days, there is  actually a law that establishes not only the process for producing a federal  budget but also a timetable. First passed in 1974, the Congressional Budget Act  tried to ensure that the different parts of the government would know what they  could spend during the coming fiscal year—and would enjoy that certainty early  enough to be able to make plans to spend the taxpayer’s money as efficiently and  effectively as possible.

That’s the theory, but in practice it hasn’t  worked out that way. In fact,  the government has not passed all its budget  and spending bills on time since 1997.

NoLabels-NoBudgetNoPay-NYTimesAdLate budgets have real and serious  consequences. In the absence of timely spending bills, Congress passes “continuing resolutions,” which are short-term band-aid measures to keep the  government running. This stop-and-go budgeting creates havoc for government  agencies and the citizens who rely on them. It’s hard for federal agencies to  plan and make commitments for the long term when they’re worried they might run  out of money in three months.

This is no way to run the largest  organization in the world – one that spent $3.8 trillion last year.

The  dysfunctional budget process also contributes to the general climate of  uncertainty that many economists believe restrains businesses from making new  investments and hiring additional workers.

That’s why both of us were so  thrilled when No Labels’ No Budget, No Pay proposal was included in this  February’s debt ceiling extension bill. No Budget, No Pay is as simple as it  sounds: If Congress can’t pass a budget on time, members aren’t paid.

No Budget, No Pay provided sorely needed  accountability for our legislators. And it worked. Last week saw the delivery of  budgets from Democrats in the Senate and Republicans in the House.
But  there’s still a missing piece of the budget puzzle.  The president is  required by law to submit his budget proposal by the first Monday in February,  but President Obama’s budget is late. In fact, this is the first time in history  that Congress has released its budgets before the president. And if President  Obama releases his budget on April 8, as recent reports suggest, it would be the  latest budget presented by a president not in his first year of office since  1921, when record-keeping began.

That’s why we believe it’s time to  expand No Budget, No Pay to the executive branch.

If the president  doesn’t submit his budget by the first Monday of February – as the law requires – he or she should not be paid until the budget is released and transmitted to  Congress.

Although No Budget, No Pay could only apply to future  presidents (the Constitution prevents current presidents’ salaries from being  increased or decreased), President Obama would take a big step toward more  accountability in our government if he agreed to apply No Budget, No Pay to the  executive branch.

Congress took its medicine with the No Budget,  No Pay Act earlier this year.  Now it’s time to hold the presidency to the  same standard.

Click here to read the full piece.

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