How the budget process works

Trying to trim the ``fat'' in a budget of nearly $1 trillion has put the budget-writing process ``under extreme duress,'' says Congressional Budget Office director Rudolph G. Penner. As a result, the way the White House and Congress cope with budgeting has changed.

At the White House, President Reagan this year was brought into the process sooner and in more depth than in the past. The President in late November and early December made budget decisions on scores of individual programs.

Presidents normally confine their budget work to tax proposals, defense spending, and projected outlays for major entitlement programs such as social security. They also settle budget disputes between Cabinet departments and the Office of Management and Budget.

In Congress, the budget procedures outlined in the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 have been followed less closely in recent years. In 1984, budget deadlines were ignored, and, contrary to the act's provisions, action on spending bills began before Congress finished a draft budget.

The formal procedures have been partly supplanted by greater reliance on party leaders to negotiate a package deal that embodies a variety of politically explosive budget issues, including taxes, defense spending, entitlements such as social security, and other programs.

In brief, the budget process begins when the President submits his budget plans to Congress in January. By April 15, the House and Senate Budget Committees submit their own versions of the budget, containing spending and revenue targets. By May 15 this resolution is adopted by both houses and spending targets are sent to individual committees.

By Sept. 15, both houses must complete a second budget resolution, which sets binding revenue and spending levels and allocates final spending levels to individual committees. By Sept. 25 Congress must complete work on a reconciliation bill. This cuts back on already enacted spending that is out of line with the second budget resolution. The new budget year starts Oct. 1.--

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