Today, the House of Representatives passed the $32.2 billion Interior-Environment Appropriations conference report, including a continuing resolution to fund the remaining portions of the federal government at FY2009 levels until December 18th. This bill, a 17 percent increase over last years levels, represents Congress’s continued disregard for mounting federal debt and deficits. At a time when the President’s own budget projection sees federal deficits topping $1 trillion through 2011, and the White House budget is set to send publicly held debt to 99 percent of GDP by 2019, now should be a time for tightening, not loosening the federal budget belt.
Unfortunately, these massive increases are only accelerating an old trend. Since 2001, discretionary spending grew 74 percent faster than inflation. Last year, the discretionary budget rose 8 percent without accounting for the stimulus, and 80 percent including stimulus spending. The various federal departments and agencies are hardly starving for vital funding. Following these massive increases one would think those in Congress would be temporarily satisfied, but not so. While the continuing resolution temporarily delays the expected spending jumps, total discretionary spending will likely jump another 8 percent this year.
Although the appropriations process has certainly set a clear path towards major spending increases, this doesn’t have to happen. The continuing resolution will maintain government spending at FY2009 levels until December for the portions of the government funded through the seven remaining bills. Congress can still change course and focus on reigning in spending to reduce federal debt and deficits. Will they?