Forecast sees sunny skies on budget front

The Congressional Budget Office estimated Wednesday that federal budget surpluses could total as much as $1.9 trillion over the next decade.

"The budgetary picture is a bright one," said CBO Director Dan Crippen in testimony before the Senate Budget Committee.

Crippen cautioned, however, that while CBO can make estimates with confidence about mandatory federal spending and revenues, it is more difficult to project the future of discretionary spending. Congress set caps on discretionary spending in the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, but could lift those caps at any time. Both President Clinton and Republicans in Congress have shown an interest recently in lifting the caps.

To take into account uncertainty about discretionary spending, CBO issued three different projections: an "inflated" baseline, assuming that budget authority for discretionary programs grows at the rate of inflation after this year; a "freeze" figure that pegs discretionary authority to levels established for fiscal 2000; and a "capped" variation, assuming that discretionary spending equals CBO's estimates of statutory caps through 2002 and grows at the rate of inflation after that.

Under the "inflated" baseline, surpluses totaled more than $800 billion. The two other baselines resulted in surplus projections of $1.9 trillion.

House Democrats immediately criticized the CBO's figures, according to an Associated Press report. The Democrats charged that the $1.9 trillion figure unrealistically assumes that Congress will continue to enforce the budget caps.

Crippen noted that the "freeze" baseline "ignores the effects of [federal] pay raises and inflation-costs that could erode the amount of services or programs the government can deliver."

In light of the CBO projections, President Clinton said he will propose paying off the $3.6 trillion total federal debt by 2013, two years earlier than the date House Republicans have floated in connection with a budget plan they are developing.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.