(Alexandria, VA) -- By ordering federal agencies to strictly comply with a recently enacted law designed to curtail special-interest "earmarks" in spending programs, the White House has lent an ear to taxpayers and a helping hand to budget process reform. That's the reaction from the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU), one of the leading citizen organizations advocating for a change in how Congress spends tax dollars.
Earlier this week Congress passed a "Continuing Resolution" (H.J. Res. 20) to provide funding for the federal government in the current fiscal year. H.J. Res. 20 banned the practice of including earmarks in House-Senate "Conference Reports" that accompany bills. But this left a loophole whereby Members of Congress could direct earmarks through phone calls and closed-door meetings with federal agencies. Yesterday, the Administration's budget arm issued a memo directing all agencies on how to implement these new strictures, which include:
1) Only those programs specifically identified in the statutory text of H.J. Res. 20 may be obligated; no other documents are to allow earmarked funds to be spent.
2) No written or oral communication from outside (such as lobbyists) or inside (such as lawmakers) the federal government supercedes directive #1 above.
3) All obligations are to be administered under the transparent, merit-based criteria established in H.J. Res. 20.
Moylan applauded these instructions, because "The rules leave no doubt that when it comes to earmarking, agencies must take the taxpayer's side, and have the authority to resist bullying from Members of Congress and their minions to do otherwise."
But he also urged the White House to go one step further. H.J. Res. 20 requires that all agencies submit a written report to the Appropriations Committees on how they plan to spend their 2007 funds. "The Administration must instruct agencies to make these reports public and subject them to the light of day. American taxpayers deserve to know how their money will be spent," Moylan stated.
Throughout 2006, Moylan has spearheaded NTU's earmark reform campaign, which has consisted in part of e-mail alerts to concerned taxpayers, coalition-building with other groups, and talk radio tours. Although the early months of 2007 have seen encouraging progress, NTU is continuing to seek permanent legislation to disclose, restrict, and allow individual votes on earmarks.
"Congress and the White House have passed major milestones on the road to fiscal responsibility, but there are still many detours to avoid and much more distance to cover," Moylan concluded. "But NTU will be with them, pushing and pulling when necessary."
NTU is a non-partisan citizen group founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes and smaller government. Note: For further details on NTU's budget process reform programs, visit www.ntu.org.