Mr. President, I rise today to share with the American public exactly what they are getting with the majority’s budget for the coming year. I’ll be blunt – it’s not good news. In fact, after four years of not bringing up a budget for consideration by the Senate, what the majority has offered is a severe disappointment. We have got to grow the economy, not the government, but unfortunately the majority’s budget focuses on growing the government – more taxing, more spending, more government.
This is a budget that looks out over the next 10 years. It provides for significant tax increases – upwards of $1.5 trillion, but it also provides for significant spending increases - $162 billion next year alone. It provides for spending increases of 62 percent from today’s budget levels. Any savings are being claimed after the first year, and those savings just never seem to pan out. It reminds me of a sign I saw in a restaurant – “Free drinks tomorrow.”
Our problem is not that we tax too little but that we spend too much. A budget should serve as the blueprint to get the revenues and the spending aligned. Unfortunately, the majority’s budget fails miserably in that respect; in fact, it does not balance the budget in any year over the next 10 years. The budget that was offered by the House Republicans, on the other hand, balances the budget in 2023. And I’ve introduced a bill called the Penny Plan that cuts spending by one percent for each of the next three years, and balances the budget in 2016. Our nation owes over $16 trillion and no one is talking about reducing it. We’ve got to get to balance – the sooner the better – and start paying down the debt.
And don’t be confused by the language the majority will use – they will say that their budget takes a “balanced approach.” But it does NOT balance. It’s tax and spend. It’s increasing deficits and increasing debt as far as the eye can see. This is NOT the plan that America needs to get its fiscal house in order.
Next year alone, the majority wants to increase spending by nearly $162 billion. And the deficit next year is anticipated to be $152 billion above current projections. Over the next 10 years, deficits are expected to total $5.2 trillion if we adopt the majority’s budget. And none of this spending is associated with any kind of reforms to the drivers of our out-of-control deficits and debt that will bankrupt Social Security and Medicare. The majority’s budget provides NO PATH to save Social Security and Medicare. What a shame – four years without a budget and when the majority finally gets around to doing it, they don’t even address the biggest driver of our fiscal mess.
Earlier this evening, the Majority Leader commented that we can learn from the bipartisanship shown by Senators Mikulski and Shelby on their work on the bill that will fund the government for the rest of this year. But they had the opportunity to work things out in committee. I wish the majority would have provided that same opportunity in the Budget Committee. Maybe then the majority could have brought a bipartisan budget to the Senate floor.
I was disheartened last week when I finally received the majority’s budget to see that it simply continues the mantra of “tax and spend.” Rather than looking for waste and abuse in federal spending, and we know there is some, the majority simply decided to ask the hardworking American public to send in more of their hard-earned money to Washington to pay for more spending. These tax increases that the majority calls for WILL hit the middle class. To my constituents back home in Wyoming and fellow citizens across the country, let me be clear – it is YOUR money, NOT the government’s money. As legislators, we have to do a better job of taking care of the funds you provide us, and ensuring it is spent wisely. The majority thinks it knows best how to spend the money you work hard to make. The budget that they have offered seeks more than $1 trillion – let me repeat that – more than $1 trillion in new taxes over the next 10 years. In fact, the majority wants to set up a fast-track legislative process to get $975 billion from you as quickly as possible!
When we took up the budget in committee last week, I offered an amendment to strike the language that provided for this “fast-track” process. My amendment was meant to ensure that tax reform would be conducted in a bipartisan manner to generate a more efficient, fairer, and simpler tax code and spur economic growth, rather than raise revenue through legislation that can be passed with a simple majority here in the Senate. A simple majority vote would ensure that the minority party’s views would receive little, if any, consideration. Debate time and the number of amendments that could be offered to improve the legislation would also be limited. We need to have an open process where all Members can have their voices heard. We simply need to stop deal making and start legislating, particularly on big and important issues like tax reform. We have to get back to a regular process so all Members can give input and improve the legislation. Unfortunately, my amendment was defeated. Every member of the majority party voted against it. But I will try again here on the Senate floor. Senator Grassley, who was a former chairman of the Finance Committee, and I have come together and will offer an amendment to get rid of that fast-track process and provide for pro-growth, revenue-neutral tax reform for corporate, business, and individual taxes.
I have a few other amendments I plan on filing as well to improve this budget. One would provide for a phase-in, or transition, for any changes to the tax code, so that people and businesses can plan accordingly and we don’t inadvertently put companies out of business or add people to the unemployment rolls. Another amendment would require that each federal agency identify and prioritize its programs, projects, and activities so that they can cut the “worst first,” in other words the least harmful and least painful cuts, when there are spending reductions. I’ll also file an amendment that would provide for protecting and restoring monies in dedicated funds, like the trust funds, so that we don’t steal money from other areas to make up the shortfalls, like the majority did with the abandoned mine land monies that were owed to Wyoming but instead were used to pay for a 2-year highway bill. And finally I’ll file an amendment reflecting the goals of the Marketplace Fairness Act so that we put all businesses, whether brick-and-mortar, online, or catalog, on a level playing field with respect to the collection of sales and use tax.
The majority’s budget would severely harm my home state of Wyoming. The more than $1 trillion in tax increases would mean losses in personal income, household disposable income, and job opportunities. Over the next 10 years, the tax increases would cut personal income in Wyoming over $4 billion; it would cut household disposable income an average of $26,000 per household; and there would be on average nearly 1,900 job losses. These tax increases clearly are the not the recipe for fixing our ailing economy, and certainly are not the answer for the hardworking folks back home in Wyoming.
When you start with one party doing the drafting and those who wrote the budget hold the majority on the Budget Committee, you can expect the bill to be one-sided. If you keep on doing what you’ve been doing, you’ve got to expect the same results. Unfortunately, I believe that is what we’ll see this week as we debate the budget here on the Senate floor.
The majority kept us in the dark on the budget until last Wednesday evening. We had to present our opening statements in the Budget Committee before we even saw the budget that the majority would offer. And then we had to turn around and start voting on amendments the next morning in the Budget Committee. We were not part of the process. And I was particularly disheartened by one amendment that failed on a party-line vote that was offered by Senator Portman from Ohio. His amendment was simply asking the Congressional Budget Office to provide additional information with the cost estimates that it provides on legislation affecting revenues. That’s right – it was just asking for additional information, and every member of the majority party voted against it. How could a request for additional information be so partisan? We can and must do better for our constituents and our country.
Several weeks from now, we may see the President’s budget proposal. Of course, he’ll be late to the game since the House and the Senate will have already acted on the budget. By the way, his budget was due nearly two months ago. I anticipate it will include many of the same things we have here in the Senate majority’s budget – more taxes, more spending, more government. And as we’re learning all too well with the majority’s drive to repeal the recent spending cuts called “sequestration,” taxes generally go on forever, but spending cuts seldom make it through the year.
We have got to grow the economy, not the government. Unfortunately, the majority’s budget has it backwards – it grows the government at the expense of the economy. I look forward to the debate on this budget and filing amendments to improve it, both for my constituents in Wyoming and my fellow citizens across this great country.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.