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Good news, bad news

By Other views Washington Post
Published April 1, 2007


The House and Senate have now passed budget plans for next year. First the good news: The resolutions enshrine "pay-go," which is a procedural impediment to additional deficit spending. Pay-go means that more spending on things such as entitlement programs or tax cuts will have to be offset by either tax increases or spending cuts elsewhere. It's an eminently responsible idea.

The bad news lies in the lingering differences between the two budget plans. The Senate's version contains language committing a projected - and probably illusory - surplus to the goal of extending for the middle class a range of tax cuts that are due to expire in 2010. Any bill written to extend these cuts according to the Senate's blueprint would still be subject to pay-go. So if the projected budget surpluses don't materialize, Congress will have to take money from elsewhere, raise other taxes or adopt a waiver from pay-go to extend the tax cuts. In early 2007, it is unnecessary and unwise to make policy commitments regarding tax cuts in 2010, especially when they are predicated on a projected budget surplus.

The House budget plan does not contain the same language on tax cuts. But, like the Senate's, it does little to rein in entitlement spending and bases projections of a surplus on accounting gimmicks.

Now the two houses have to reconcile their plans. House representatives should push to strike the Senate language on tax-cut extensions.

[Last modified April 1, 2007, 01:12:03]

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