CBO Releases Three More Budget Primers

Posted by
Phill Swagel
May 26, 2023

As I discussed in a blog post last month, CBO is engaged in many efforts aimed at fostering transparency, such as providing additional information to help people understand the federal budget process and the agency’s role in it. This week, CBO released three more primers as part of those efforts:

  • CBO Explains How It Estimates Savings From Rescissions—Rescissions are provisions of law that cancel budget authority previously provided to federal agencies before it would otherwise expire. The Congress can use rescissions, along with other legislative tools, to reduce federal spending. CBO provides estimates of the budgetary effects of proposed rescissions to support the Congress in enforcing budget rules. To produce those estimates, CBO considers several factors, which are discussed in this primer.
  • CBO Explains the Statutory Foundations of Its Budget Baseline—By law, CBO is required to regularly prepare a baseline consisting of projections of federal revenues, spending, deficits or surpluses, and debt. Those projections provide lawmakers with an indication of the budgetary outlook under current law and a benchmark for assessing the budgetary effects of proposed changes in policy. Most of the rules that govern how CBO constructs its baseline projections are statutory. This publication describes the provisions of four key laws from which many of those rules originate.
  • CBO Explains Its Principles for Identifying Mandates in Legislation—As required by the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995, CBO examines some of the effects of federal legislation on state, local, and tribal governments and on private-sector entities by identifying what that act defines as mandates. This primer describes the principles that the agency follows to identify mandates in legislation.

In late April, CBO released The Medicare and Medicaid Improvement Funds: Budgetary History and Projections as part of its Budget Spotlight series. In that report, CBO describes features of the Medicare and Medicaid improvement funds and how the funds are accounted for in the agency’s baseline and cost estimates.

Earlier in April, CBO published two updated budget primers:

  • CBO Explains How It Develops the Budget Baseline—The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 (often called the Budget Act) requires CBO to produce an annual report on federal spending, revenues, and deficits or surpluses. This document provides answers to questions about how the agency prepares those baseline budget projections.
  • CBO Describes Its Cost-Estimating Process—The Budget Act also requires CBO to prepare estimates of the cost of legislation at certain points in the legislative process. This primer describes how the agency prepares those cost estimates.

CBO’s budget primers are available on the agency’s budget concepts and process webpage.

Phillip L. Swagel is CBO’s Director.