Budget Options, Volume 2

Posted on
August 6, 2009

CBO regularly presents compendiums of budget options to help inform Members of Congress about the effects that various policy choices would have on spending or revenues. For the current budget cycle, CBO has issued Budget Options in two volumes. The first volume, released in December 2008, focused on options regarding health care and its financing. The second volume, released today, includes options that address other areas of federal spending and revenues. Estimates for most of the revenue options were supplied by our colleagues at the Joint Committee on Taxation. In keeping with CBOs mandate to provide objective, impartial analysis, these volumes make no recommendations.

Todays report presents 188 illustrative options that cover an array of programs and policy areasfrom defense to energy to entitlement programs to provisions of the tax code. The options include some changes that would decrease spending and others that would increase it, as well as some changes that would reduce revenues and some that would raise them. The options come from legislative proposals, the Presidents budget, Congressional and CBO staff, other government entities, and private groups, among others. They are intended to reflect a range of possibilities, not a ranking of priorities, and the selection or omission of a potential policy change does not represent an endorsement or rejection by CBO.

The budgetary effects shown for each option span the 10 years from 2010 to 2019 (the period covered by CBOs March 2009 baseline budget projections). Some options would have significant effects beyond that horizon. For each option, a table shows its estimated effect on spending or revenues in each year from 2010 to 2014 and summary projections for 5 and 10 years. The accompanying discussion provides background, describes the policy change envisioned in the option, and summarizes arguments for and against the change.