Budget Process:

Issues in Biennial Budget Proposals

T-AIMD-96-136: Published: Jul 24, 1996. Publicly Released: Jul 24, 1996.

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GAO discussed several proposals to change the budget process from an annual to a biennial cycle. GAO noted that: (1) many congressional members believe a biennial budget cycle would streamline the budget process, provide longer-term funding levels, enhance agencies' ability to manage their programs, and provide more time for congressional oversight; (2) preparation and analysis for the annual budget process is time-consuming and burdensome for program managers; (3) although eight states have biennial budget cycles, state budgets fill a different role and are sensitive to different outside pressures; (4) the state agencies with the largest budgets submit annual budget requests, since these budgets are the most volatile and dependent on federal funding; (5) the state agencies that are on biennial budget cycles are typically small, single-program agencies that are funded by fees rather than general fund revenues; (6) budget agreements, authorizations, and budget resolutions do not have to cover the same time period; (7) Congress has routinely provided multiyear appropriations for those programs on the annual appropriation cycle; and (8) a 2-year budget cycle could lessen congressional control over program and spending matters.

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