Mandatory Spending: Using Budget Triggers to Constrain Growth

GAO-06-276 Published: Jan 31, 2006. Publicly Released: Jan 31, 2006.
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Prepared as part of GAO's basic statutory responsibility for monitoring the condition of the nation's finances, the objectives of this report were to (1) determine the feasibility of designing and using trigger mechanisms to constrain growth in mandatory spending programs and (2) provide an analysis of the factors that led to differences between estimated and actual outlays in seven mandatory budget accounts during fiscal years 2000 through 2004.

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Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
To promote explicit scrutiny of significant growth in mandatory accounts, as mandatory spending programs are created, reexamined, or reauthorized, Congress may wish to consider incorporating budget triggers that would signal the need for action. Further, it may wish to determine whether in some cases it might be appropriate to consider automatically causing some action to be taken when the trigger is exceeded. Once a trigger is tripped, Congress could either accept or reject all or a portion of the response to the spending growth.
Closed – Implemented
Sections 202-204 of the FY 2008 Concurrent Budget Resolution (S. Con. Res. 21 Agreed to on May 17, 2007) created triggers in the form of points of order against any net deficit increases in excess of $5 billion in any of the four ten-year periods. Moreover, it creates a new 60-vote point of order against reconciliation measures that would cause or increase an on-budget deficit or decrease an on-budget surplus. Finally, all emergency designations would be subject to an emergency designation point of order, which can only be waived with 60 votes.

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