Say it again, Alice

One of the most sensible proposals to come out of Congress in weeks comes not from a lawmaker but from Alice Rivlin, head of the Congressional Budget Office. In testimony this week before a Senate panel she argued that Congress should consider shifting to a two-year budget, rather than continue the present hodgepodge one-year budgeting system. For all Americans who have perhaps wearied of reading the endless articles (and editorials) that have appeared on budget battles this past year, the Rivlin suggestion is right on target.

The issue involves more than just the Perils-of-Pauline antics of recent months over the fiscal year budget and the supplemental appropriation measure that was vetoed by President Reagan and then overridden by Congress. It is a matter of accounting logic. Many major US corporations (and not a few families) tend to budget in multiyear periods. Since Congresses are two-year gatherings anyway (the full House is elected each two-year period), it seems sensible for the US government to be run on modern accounting procedures. Multiyear budgeting would allow greater long-range planning; would more quickly identify programs of lasting worth to taxpayers that deserve financing in the first place; and would free up lawmakers to give attention to other matters.

Such budgeting would not preclude modification each year, if necessary, such as passage of supplemental bills or termination of programs.

The federal budget already includes some aspects of multiyear budgeting (at the Pentagon, for example.) So a changeover would not be that difficult.

Say it again, Alice Rivlin!

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