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The Secret Is Out: The New Budget Deal Increases Spending!

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…The Heritage Foundation  —  12/11/2013…

Many had high hopes that the first budget conference in four years would make a substantial down payment toward fixing the U.S. spending and debt crisis. The new “Bipartisan Budget Act” thoroughly disappoints. While we dig through the details for a more complete assessment, here are three key facts on the sour deal:

1. It busts through supposed spending “caps.” The way Congress operates, it’s ridiculous for Members to set spending caps. They just keep busting right through them. The deal announced yesterday raises discretionary spending above the bipartisan spending agreement forged in 2011 as part of the Budget Control Act. Spending for defense and non-defense domestic programs would be raised by $45 billion in 2014 and by $18 billion in 2015.

Once again, Congress has fallen into its old and destructive habit of trading more spending in one area for more spending in another. This is a bad “compromise” that keeps increasing spending, when just a little more effort to eliminate bad government programs and reduce wasteful spending could have saved taxpayers money instead.

2. It taxes and spends. The agreement says that the increased spending is fully offset elsewhere in the budget, using a mix of spending cuts and non-tax revenue. Make no mistake, raising revenue to spend more is simply taxing and spending. If anything, automatic spending cuts could be exchanged for targeted spending cuts. Trading spending cuts for more revenue, however, grows the burden of government. After all, Washington suffers from a spending problem, not a revenue one.

3. It spends now and delays savings till later. The budget deal would spend $63 billion over the next two years—but take 10 years to make up for this splurge. This is a common Washington gimmick. To the conferees’ credit, the deal suggests one-third in additional deficit reduction—the details of which remain to be evaluated.

The budget conferees failed to make substantive reforms to the real drivers of spending and debt: the entitlement programs. Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) forged a deal that would increase spending immediately, while delaying deficit reduction till later and trading spending cuts for more revenue. Far from simply being another missed opportunity, this deal keeps the nation on its fiscal collision course.

Then, on December 13, the same source added this:

The congressional budget deal includes some “user fees.”

For the Washington establishment, that’s apparently the politically correct way of telling Americans they’ll be paying more to the federal government. For the rest of us, it’s a tax increase.

The Ryan-Murray budget deal, which passed the House on a 332-94 vote, includes a number of “fee” increases. One would make flying more expensive. Travelers are currently charged $2.50 per flight under the Transportation Security Administration’s airline security “fee.” Under the budget deal, that would increase to $5.60 per flight or $11.20 for a round-trip ticket.

Supporters of the deal are claiming this isn’t a tax increase—but take a look at your airline receipt. The airline security charge is just one of the taxes you’ll see. According to Delta Airlines, there’s also the Domestic Transportation Tax (7.5 percent), Travel Facilities Tax ($8.40), and U.S. International Transportation Tax ($17.20). These are all considered taxes.

When asked if the “user fees” were a code name for a tax increase, Representative Tom McClintock (R-CA) explained it this way: “I happen to believe once government spends a dollar they have decided to tax that dollar. The only question is when and by what means.”

And in the case of this airline security fee increase, the money isn’t even going back to the TSA to fund or improve security. Instead, as Heritage’s Cassandra Lucaccioni explained, “it will be deposited annually into a general fund of the Treasury.”

Not all government user fees are problematic. If they’re used to provide services to distinct groups of individuals or specific businesses or industries, they might make sense. That’s not what’s happening here.

“If a higher fee does not directly cover the cost of a government service and instead goes to pay for more spending, then it is akin to a tax increase,” said Curtis Dubay, Heritage’s senior tax policy analyst. “The budget deal uses the higher fees to cover the cost of more spending; hence it is essentially a tax hike.”

Taxpayers are tired of Washington’s gimmicks and games—and conservatives on Capitol Hill shouldn’t fall for this sneaky wordplay. The $63 billion spending hike in the Ryan-Murray budget has to come from somewhere.

Only in Washington could something like this fly.  The American people shouldn’t buy it—or, in this case, pay for it.

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