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Federal Budget 101 Workshop Draws National Budget "Rock Star" | News

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Federal Budget 101 Workshop Draws National Budget "Rock Star"
News, People, Politics
Federal Budget 101 Workshop Draws National Budget "Rock Star"


Tampa, Florida-- The Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce recently hosted a Concord Coalition Federal Budget Planning Workshop.

The Concord Coalition is a national non-profit organization focused on increasing public awareness of our federal debt and deficit challenges. Participants in the workshop are broken into teams and provided a detailed workbook outlining 40 line item budget entries in the current federal budget, complete with rationale for proponents and opponents of the particular program. Each individual is provided their own worksheet. The task is to come to consensus on all 40 line items and complete the budget. In this process the teams can add $6 trillion to the proposed budget or cut the budget by as much as $8 trillion depending on the options chosen.

Phil Smith was the trainer for this session and he brought a special guest with him. The guest was David Walker who has served in several administrations including 10 years as Comptroller General of the United States under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush. Needless to say this was an unexpected surprise to have arguably one of the most knowledgeable individuals on the federal budget process with us.

The federal budget has $3.6 trillion in outlays for fiscal year 2011 and $2.3 trillion in revenues. Outlays are grouped into three major categories: discretionary spending, entitlements and interest on the federal debt. Mr. Smith pointed out that in many exercises foreign aid is initially a major target of groups he has worked with. However, he pointed out that foreign aid represents only 1% of the total outlay while the interest on the debt is 6%. Discretionary spending is the money needed to run the federal government including defense and government offices. Entitlements primarily consists of Social Security, Medicare and other social programs.

Our four teams all cut money from the budget during the process. The cuts ranged from 2 trillion to over $4.1 trillion. Participants reported that going through the budget on an individual line item basis was quite difficult and very revealing in terms of their individual approaches the various programs including core discretionary funding such as defense and the trade-offs for Social Security, Medicare, and a variety of social programs. They also noted consensus often required trade-offs.

Mr. Walker is about to embark on a 7500 mile bus tour across United States that he labels the fiscal responsibility bus tour. He indicated, at present, the goal of the next Congress should not focus on erasing the deficit since the gap is so wide. He indicated the first move should be to stabilize the debt; then to work on incrementally changing the ratio of the income to expense of the deficit (currently 1.33:1). He noted this is the way the country recovered from World War II and was also the approach taken by Ronald Reagan. He noted that the 'ticking time bomb' in the budget is the growing national debt. The reason it is only 6% of the budget is low interest rates. If interest rates rise that debt grows exponentially. You can track the progress of his tour as well as the status of the national debt by checking his website at 10millionaminute.com.

This workshop was conducted in coordination with the district office of Congressman Gus Bilirakis. Congressman Bilirakis has personally conducted several workshops with constituent groups and uses the results to help assess where his district stands on budget priorities. If you would be interested in a future workshop please contact the Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce at 813-855-4233.

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