A new budget season kicks off

CBO releases its baselines, and the president’s budget is on deck.

Two events traditionally mark the beginning of ”Budget Season” in Washington. One is the release of the President’s budget, which will happen this year on February 13. The other sentinel event is the release of the Congressional Budget Office’s Budget and Economic Outlook.  Each January, CBO prepares baseline budget projections for the coming decade, providing a baseline against which potential policy changes (and changes already scheduled by law) may be measured.

Some highlights of the CBO report:

  • There will be a $1.1 trillion budget deficit in Fiscal Year 2012 if current laws remain unchanged. “This is nearly 2 percentage points below the 2011 deficit, but still higher than any deficit between 1947 and 2008. Over the next few years, projected deficits in CBO’s baseline decline markedly, dropping to under $200 billion and averaging 1.5 percent of GDP over the 2013–2022 period.”
  • Much of the projected decline in the deficit occurs because under current law revenues are projected to increase by almost $800 billion, or more than 30 percent, between 2012 and 2014, largely because the Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire.
  • Projected spending averages 21.9 percent of GDP over the next ten years, less than the 23.2 percent CBO estimates for 2012, but high by historical standards.

“Budget Season” also inspires new speculation about how Congress will manage to negotiate 12 appropriations bills during this contentious election year, with the additional fiscal pressure of the sequester required by the Budget Control Act, the automatic spending cuts that will take effect next January.

Those cuts were required when the special joint committee created by August’s debt limit law (PL 112-25), also known as the Super Committee, did not produce $1.2 trillion in savings over a decade. The cuts are expected to reduce appropriations for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 by roughly 9 percent across the board unless Congress passes new legislation to reduce the deficit by that amount by other means.

APA and other health and science organizations are discussing advocacy strategies to encourage Congress to avoid making such heavy cuts to research agencies’ budgets. 

Did you catch the references to the importance of science in the State of the Union address? In his Jan. 24 speech, President Obama said, “innovation is what America has always been about… Innovation also demands basic research. Today, the discoveries taking place in our federally financed labs and universities could lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched...Don’t gut these investments in our budget. Don’t let other countries win the race for the future.  Support the same kind of research and innovation that led to the computer chip and the Internet; to new American jobs and new American industries.”

The full transcript of the address can be found on the White House website.