Honest Budget Act to Address Washington Budget "Gimmicks"

February 2, 2012
Press Release

Delivering a speech on the House floor earlier today, U.S. Rep. Martha Roby speaks about her bill, the Honest Budget Act - H.R. 3844. In her speech, Roby calls on Congress to enact the legislation that would bring about an honest and transparent budgeting process. The Honest Budget Act is a first step to change the “business-as-usual” way of Washington  by removing legislative loopholes and budgeting gimmicks.

The Honest Budget Act is companion legislation to a bill introduced by Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Jeff Sessions. Yesterday, more than 25 of their Senate and House colleagues stood in support of the bill as Rep. Roby and Sen. Sessions led a bi-cameral press conference to introduce the Honest Budget Act.

The text of Rep. Roby’s House floor speech is below:

“Mr. Speaker, Americans deserve a genuine and predictable government that shoots straight. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest.”  How can the people hold their representative accountable when Congress and their President distort the basic facts?

“Many of my colleagues and I are dismayed by the dysfunction in the process. We’ve seen firsthand the insider tricks and schemes used to distort the budget and hide new spending. We’ve learned that these loopholes are deeply engrained in the rules of Congress, and that both Republicans and Democrats are guilty of exploiting them.

“The American people have a right to expect accountability, honesty, and transparency from their government.  But every year, Washington relies on a series of budget gimmicks and accounting tricks to conceal or enable deficit spending.  With our nation’s gross debt nearing $15 trillion – as large as our entire economy – Washington must drop the budget games and commit to honest budget practices. 

“We - as the freshman class - were sent to D.C. to do things differently and to assist on honest and transparent government.

“That’s why earlier this week, I, along with 28 of my colleagues, introduced the Honest Budget Act of 2012- an important step to change the way Washington works and instill integrity to the budget process.

“My legislation is designed to root out the budget gimmicks most commonly used by politicians to hide the truth, confuse the public, and run up the national debt.

“Last year, Senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama introduced in the Senate similar legislation to strengthen the Senate’s rules against budget trickery. Numerous conservative groups have endorsed Sessions’ bill, including the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Tax Reform, and Citizens Against Government Waste.

“My legislation expands this bill with similar rules in the House of Representatives to addresses nine specific budget gimmicks that, since 2005, have cost taxpayers more than $350 billion and have consistently added to the burgeoning national debt. For example, the legislation would make it more difficult to pass appropriation bills without first approving a budget and ending the days of the Senate going without a budget for more than 1000 days. It would tighten rules about using ‘emergency designations’ and ‘disaster designations’ to justify off-budget spending.  It would reveal both the real cost and the real commitment on what the federal government is spending.  The bill would also prevent Congress from relying on phony rescissions, or claiming savings unless the savings are real and genuine. Money that was never going to be spent cannot later be claimed as ‘savings’.  That’s common sense.

“A budget is a plan for the nation’s future and an annual financial report to the stockholders of the company — in this case, the American people. We deserve the truth. Mr. Speaker, given what I have witnessed over the last year, the only way to guarantee the truth is to specifically root out and end the gimmicks that so often obscure it. 

“The American people deserve a budget system that is accountable, predictable, and real.  Regardless of party, Congress and the Administration have not always been up-front with their numbers.  It is important that we instill integrity back to our budget.  The President is expected to present Congress with his budget for Fiscal Year 2013.  We have a responsibility to our constituents to ensure that the final budget is accurate and any savings included are real savings.

“In many respects, the Honest Budget Act of 2012 embodies the spirit of transparency and accountability that unites my freshman class. The bill is a rallying point for those who truly want to put an end to the tricks, gimmicks and empty promises, and for all who believe that the American people deserve a government that they can trust. I look forward to work with my colleagues to see this become reality.