House, Senate Reach Budget Agreement

AASHTO Journal, 13 December 2013

After weeks of negotiation, leadership from both the House and Senate Budget Committees announced this week they had reached a deal to set overall federal spending levels for two years.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, which passed the House Thursday night by a vote of 332 to 94, sets overall discretionary spending for the current fiscal year (which began Oct. 1) at $1.012 trillion. This number is roughly halfway between what the Senate originally wanted ($1.058 trillion) and what the House was aiming for ($967 billion). That $967 billion level for 2014 was set as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011. The measure provides $63 billion (split evenly between defense and non-defense programs) in sequester relief during the next two years, which was fully offset by savings found in other arenas. Defense discretionary spending for FY 2014 would stand at $520.5 billion and non-defense discretionary spending would be set at $491.8 billion. Finally, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the budget agreement would cut the federal deficit by $85 billion through the next 10 years.

The bill raises Transportation Security Administration fees from $2.50 per plane ride to $5.60. The bill also requires that TSA continue to staff airport secure area exit lanes rather than turning that responsibility over to airport officials. TSA had explored the idea of ceasing its staffing of those lanes to save money.

If the agreement is passed by the Senate and signed by President Obama, the government avoids another shutdown in January, which is when the current budget extension expires.

“I’m proud of this agreement,” said House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) in a statement before the House vote. “It reduces the deficit—without raising taxes. And it cuts spending in a smarter way. It’s a firm step in the right direction, and I ask all my colleagues in the House to support it.”

“This agreement breaks through the recent dysfunction to prevent another government shutdown and roll back sequestration’s cuts to defense and domestic investments in a balanced way,” said Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray. “It’s a good step in the right direction that can hopefully rebuild some trust and serve as a foundation for continued bipartisan work.”

The Senate is expected to take up the measure next week.

Text of the legislation is available here.

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