Welcome to the Taxpayer's Tab -- the weekly newsletter for up-to-the-minute research from the National Taxpayers Union Foundation's BillTally Project.
Since 1991, NTUF has computed the legislative spending agendas of Members of Congress by analyzing the costs -- and savings -- of the bills that they sponsor and cosponsor. Our goal is to provide you with objective information about what Congress wants to do with your tax dollars in an open and transparent manner.
Each week, NTUF will bring you updates on the week's most and least expensive bills, the ones with the most cosponsors ("the most friended"), and a few bills we've termed Wildcards -- bills that we think you might find interesting.
For more information on the National Taxpayers Union Foundation or the BillTally Project, check out our website and methodology.
Most Expensive Bill of the Week
The Bill: H.R. 2263, Disability Equity Act
Annualized Cost: $14.1 billion (first year cost)
American workers who become disabled may experience a loss of income, employment, and health insurance. Medicare and Social Security's disability programs were intended to minimize some of the hardships associated with a disability. The programs have waiting periods before an individual becomes eligible for benefits to allow for private insurance payments and to ensure that the disability is severe enough to quality for support.
Congresswoman Betty Sutton (OH-13) introduced H.R. 2263, the Disability Equity Act, to eliminate two of these waiting periods. By striking the five-month waiting period for disability benefits, under the Social Security Disability Insurance program, the government would spend $2.2 billion more in FY 2011. However, the National Association of Disability Examiners anticipates some administrative cost savings resulting from the elimination but was unable to estimate by how much.
Additionally, the 24-month waiting period for Medicare disability benefits would be rescinded. This provision would increase government spending by $11.9 billion in the first fiscal year of enactment.
Related legislation, H.R. 2881 sponsored by Congressman Mike Rogers (AL-3), would waive the waiting period for anyone with a diagnosed terminal illness with a reported cost of $5 to $7 billion per year.
Least Expensive Bill of the Week
The Bill: H.R. 5348/S. 3747, Federal Workforce Reduction Act
Annualized Savings: $3.5 billion (first year savings)
In an effort to decrease federal spending, Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis (WY-At Large) and Senator Orrin Hatch (UT) introduced the Federal Workforce Reduction Act. The act would freeze all government hiring except for agencies and positions relating to national defense and veteran's care. H.R. 5348 would also institute a system of attrition whereby for every four federal workers retiring, only two new workers would be hired. A process where government entities must apply for and justify hirings would be created as well. H.R. 5348 requires the federal government to disclose all new workers and their employing agency.
According to a House Budget Committee report on employment, the federal workforce has increased by approximately 15 percent, or 188,000 people, since the beginning of 2009. The annual cost of new workers will be $3.5 billion in FY 2011.
The Bill: H.R. 2296/S. 941, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Reform and Firearms Modernization Act
Number Of Cosponsors: 240 Congressmen and 35 Senators*
H.R. 2296 and S. 941 would clarify and augment certain firearms violations. Currently, law enforcement officials, specifically the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE), are limited to giving warnings or revoking licenses for any kind of gun violations. Sponsors Congressman Steve King (IA-5) and Senator Mike Crapo (ID) feel that the law too severely punishes law-abiding gun owners by offering such stark punishments. King cites minor violations as filing records in the wrong order and improper use of abbreviations.
The BATFE Modernization Act creates a graduated penalty system for civil violations and permits a grace period for firearms business ownership transitions. Crapo said the "legislation is needed so that dealers, both large and small, are provided a fair opportunity to discuss alleged violations, respond to them, and negotiate agreements to resolve issues raised by the BATFE."
H.R. 2296 would have an annualized cost of $13 million. Costs to the federal government include hiring more administrative and legal staff and purchasing enhanced computer systems.
Cosponsors include 71 Democrats and 169 Republicans in the House and 5 Democrats and 30 Republicans in the Senate, all from different parts of the country.
* Former Senator Mel Martinez (FL) is currently listed in Thomas.gov as a cosponsor
We Want You!
NTUF is looking for late summer/fall associate policy analysts to participate in our internship program. Associates assist with BillTally research and other policy projects. Academic credit and a stipend are possible. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. To apply visit our internship page. Join us and help keep a tab on Congress!