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Federal Budget Deadlines Stacking Up, This Year and Next

December 2, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS - The recent failure of the congressional "super committee" to meet its deadline...has set some new deadlines. Federal budget-watchers point out that the deficit is already falling, even without more action by Congress, but they add lawmakers will have to act by the end of this year to stop potential drags on the economy.

Andrew Fieldhouse, federal budget policy analyst for the Economic Policy Institute, points out that both a temporary tax cut for working families and support for the long-term unemployed will soon expire unless Congress votes to extend them.

"The payroll tax cuts and unemployment insurance would make a noticeable difference on economic growth. If the program is allowed to lapse, 1.8 million Americans will lose unemployment benefits."

President Obama wants Congress to cut taxes for working families by an average of $1,500 a year. Republicans say they want to further reduce the deficit by letting payroll taxes rise and unemployment benefits expire. Automatic cuts, equally divided between defense and domestic spending, are scheduled to start at the end of next year.

Cuts to Medicare provider payments are still up in the air, but otherwise the programs will continue as designed under current law, adds Fieldhouse.

"The implosion of the super committee makes it much less likely that any of those programs are changed, in the near-term."

He predicts the biggest battles could come at the end of next year, after the election. That's when the Bush tax cuts expire, the government gets close to the debt ceiling and the automatic budget cuts begin. And he's convinced those battles, especially the tax fights, will decide the size of the deficit for the next ten years.

Leigh DeNoon, Public News Service - IN