Budget Process:

Some Reforms Offer Promise

T-AIMD-94-86: Published: Mar 2, 1994. Publicly Released: Mar 2, 1994.

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GAO discussed proposed changes to the budget process, focusing on: (1) biennial budgeting; (2) increasing controls over tax expenditures and direct spending; and (3) requiring gross national product (GNP) budget analysis and fiscal policy reports in the President's budget proposals. GAO noted that: (1) the House members of the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress have proposed to shift the budget cycle from annual to biennial, strengthen fiscal policies by including tax expenditures and direct spending programs into the budget resolution, and broaden the context in which budgets are presented and debated; (2) although shifting appropriations and reauthorizations to a biennial budget cycle would increase the accuracy of budget forecasting and save agencies significant amounts of time and money, Congress should extend the length of time that appropriations are available without reducing congressional oversight; (3) incorporating tax expenditures into the budget resolution would further link tax expenditures with budget outlays; (4) periodic reviews of direct spending may not be feasible because frequent demographic, economic, and technical changes make anticipating appropriation levels difficult; and (5) although requiring the President to submit a GNP analysis and a separate fiscal and budget policy report would allow for longer range economic planning and further link fiscal policy with the broader goals for the U.S. economy, the President's report should focus on gross domestic product rather than GNP.

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