Tags: 2001 | Laws | Cost | Taxpayers | $733 | Billion

2001 Laws Cost Taxpayers $733 Billion

Monday, 11 February 2002 12:00 AM

The two most expensive bills signed into law were the National Defense Authorization Act, which calls for $276 million in mandatory spending over five years, and the education law known as the "No Child Left Behind Act," which will cost taxpayers $135 billion over the next five years.

The House Republican Study Committee (RSC) has totaled the costs of all the legislation passed during the first half of the 107th Congress, the first time it has ever undertaken such a task, according to RSC executive director Neil Bradley.

"One of the goals that we set out in doing this, this year, was to begin compiling figures every year, so we can begin to compare whether we are spending or proposing to spend more of the taxpayers' money or less," said Bradley.

Another expensive item is the "Railroad Retirement Act," which will cost taxpayers almost $14 billion over five years.

The study was broken down into three major categories: mandatory spending, authorizations and appropriations.

"Mandatory spending is the spending that is re-occurring, that once Congress begins it, it doesn't end until Congress affirmatively chooses to do something about it. This is spending that will continue for now until Congress decides to change those programs," Bradley said.

The study found that the appropriations bills approach $733 billion in 2001, a historic high, according to Bradley. About $45 billion is a direct result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he said, but the total is "well in excess of the levels we prescribed back in 1997 when we had a Balanced Budget Act."

"President Bush had proposed fairly substantial increases in education spending, and Congress, in particular the Senate, led by Senator Kennedy, proposed even further increases.

"Ultimately, most of those increases were included in the final bill that was signed into law," said Bradley.

Bradley also predicts, after looking at President Bush's proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, that appropriations will climb even higher.

"There are a lot of proposals to increase mandatory spending on things like prescription drugs. Also, the farm bill, which would increase the mandatory spending line. But it remains to be seen what sort of authorizations [Congress] will take up this year," said Bradley.

"Certainly, we will do another defense authorization bill, and our members believe and with good reason that that will be more than the previous year," he added.

Congress last year also passed the "African Elephant Conservation Act" and the "Rhino and Tiger Conservation Act," two items that will cost $15 million combined.

Bradley said bills such as those are "passed generally on Tuesday afternoons before members really get back into town. They usually pass under the suspension calendar, which means there are no amendments or constrained time for debate and very little discussion or fanfare."

Congress also passed 22 bills during the first session that renamed post offices and other federal property.

Pete Sepp, vice president of National Taxpayers Union, said the study showed "just how massive our federal government has become" and should "give people pause."

"The other dirty secret is, of course, that the federal government spends more than twice that amount [$733 billion] every year anyway. It means that a lot of federal spending goes on without a great deal of pause to evaluate it."

Sepp added that "there are so many programs on automatic pilot that get authorized once and sometimes every five or ten years. And they just continue on without even a peep."

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The two most expensive bills signed into law were the National Defense Authorization Act, which calls for $276 million in mandatory spending over five years, and the education law known as the No Child Left Behind Act, which will cost taxpayers $135 billion over the next...
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Monday, 11 February 2002 12:00 AM
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