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The nation's long-term fiscal outlook is daunting. While the budget process has not caused the problems we face, the absence of meaningful budget controls and other mechanisms has served to compound our fiscal challenge. Conversely, a process that illuminates the looming fiscal pressures and provides appropriate incentives can at least help decision makers focus on the right questions. Meaningful budget controls and other mechanisms can also help to assure that difficult but necessary choices are made. The budget process needs to provide incentives and signals to address commitments the government has already made and better transparency for and controls on the long-term fiscal exposures being considered. Improvements would include the restoration of realistic discretionary caps; application of pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) discipline to both mandatory spending and revenue legislation; the use of "triggers" for some mandatory programs; and better reporting of fiscal exposures.

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