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The Price of a New Budget

House Budget Chairman Tom Price has offered fresh details on his drive to overhaul the federal budget process, saying he hopes to craft legislation to rewrite the 1974 budget act this year and get it signed by a Republican president next year.

Price also said he expects to unveil and potentially mark up a fiscal 2017 budget resolution the last week in February.

In wide-ranging comments during a recent appearance at the Brookings Institution, the Georgia Republican also said he could support a tax system overhaul that would generate additional revenue, though he indicated it could be measured by a different legislative scoring protocol than is currently being used.

Noting the Budget Committee solicited ideas for reshaping the budget process during hearings last year, Price said he is “hopeful that what we’re able to do is to do a rewrite of that act, and with a new president in 2017 get that signed into law.”

Revisions could include changes to the way that legislation is scored or its cost estimated, and making the Congressional Budget Office more transparent, he said.

Though he personally favors reducing the size and scope of government, Price said he envisions a budget rewrite that would be policy neutral, not favoring the political goals of either Republicans or Democrats.

“Budget process ought to afford every single member, every single perspective, the same opportunity to engage and then to force the members to get to an outcome, not to an outcome that’s predetermined but to get to an outcome,” he said during a conversation with David Wessel, director of the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at Brookings.

Price, a member of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, signaled he is open to a tax overhaul that would raise additional revenue as long as it did not increase tax rates. “If you get to appropriate budget process reform then you may have an opportunity to have it raise a lot of revenue but not count against you,” he said.

Like many other GOP lawmakers, Price wants to simplify the tax system, bringing down rates and doing away with deductions and credits, which he says would broaden the tax base and stimulate economic growth.

In a swipe at the idea that a tax overhaul should end up raising exactly the same amount of revenue as before and should not change the distribution of taxes among different income groups, Price said “confining oneself to revenue neutrality and distributional neutrality imprisons you and makes it so that you almost can’t get to the right answer.”
Price said Democrats on the Budget Committee so far have not bought in to overhauling the budget process laid out in the 1974 law (PL 93-344).

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