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New House Members Stress Importance of PAYGO

Sep 4, 2019 | Budgets & Projections

A group of ten new Democratic members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to House committee chairs on Wednesday urging them to better adhere to the Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO) provision in House rules. As strong supporters of PAYGO, we couldn't agree more!

Even under current law, debt is projected to rise to 95 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2029 higher than any time in history except for two years towards the end of World War II. PAYGO is a series of rules, laws, and norms designed to prevent lawmakers from further adding to the debt – essentially mandating that all new spending or tax cuts be paid for with spending cuts or revenue. Failure to abide by PAYGO could easily result in debt exceeding its prior record by 2030 or sooner.

The letter, led by Representatives Sharice Davids (D-KS) and Ben McAdams (D-UT) and signed by Representatives Colin Allred (D-TX), Cindy Axne (D-IA), Ed Case (D-HI), Joe Cunningham (D-SC), Kendra Horn (D-OK), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), and Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ), reiterates the importance of offsets to pay for legislation as well as the need for committee chairs to allow the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) the necessary time to evaluate legislation's cost.

To formalize this position, the House could even change its rules to require committees to respect PAYGO when reporting legislation. For offsets beyond a committee’s area of responsibility, however, it could have to make specific and scored recommendations to the appropriate committee(s). Adherence to this standard could even factor into decisions regarding whether or not to let a member remain chair.

House Democrats restored House PAYGO rules after taking control this year. However, as the letter notes, the House has since waived PAYGO and ignored PAYGO principles several times in order to pass legislation increasing the deficit. Furthermore, as the letter points out, House committee chairs have allowed bills to be “marked up” and reported out of committee before CBO has published cost estimates for those bills.

PAYGO is a pillar of responsible fiscal governance. It was vital to bipartisan efforts to control deficits – and ultimately to balancing the budget – in the 1990s. PAYGO forces legislators to consider the tradeoffs of spending and revenue before enacting costly initiatives, and it is the absolute minimum for ensuring our fiscal trajectory doesn’t further deteriorate.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget commends these new House members for urging their colleagues to follow through on their commitment to responsible budgeting and avoid adding to our surging national debt.