Smucker Testifies Before Bipartisan Budget Reform Panel
Washington, D.C. – Testifying today before the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Process Reform, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker (PA-16) urged his colleagues in the House and Senate to use a transparent process to develop and enact reforms that will fix the broken federal budget process and deliver real, systemic, and meaningful results.
Rep. Smucker highlighted his work on the Basic Education Funding Commission while serving as chair of the Education Committee in the Pennsylvania Senate. In his testimony, Rep. Smucker said:
“Sticking to the original purpose of the commission was critical. It was tasked with finding a formula but received a lot of pressure to increase the scope of its work. We worked hard to keep the goal narrowly focused on the specific problem we wanted to fix. While your commission may not be designed in exactly the same way as ours in Pennsylvania, and has different goals, I know it can work, and that you can make a difference.”
Rep. Smucker’s full testimony can be found below.
“Co-chairs Womack and Lowey, Members of the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations Reform, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today.
“First, I would like to begin by extending my sincere appreciation for the work of this select committee. You all have been tasked with accomplishing an incredibly important job - fixing the federal budget process.
“As a freshman member of the House Budget Committee, I received quite an education over the last 18 months about how we conduct business here in Congress.
“We lurch from one CR to the next - an average of four per year. Since our budget process was last overhauled in 1974, the government has been shut down more than twenty times. In fact, the twelve required appropriations bills have passed on time just once in 43 years.
“Particularly when contrasted with my experiences as a business owner, and then as a state legislator in Pennsylvania, I think it’s fair to say that the wheels have completely come off our annual budgeting process.
“You already know that, and you know the results. A crushing debt that threatens our security and our economic vitality. A system that is failing the American people. And a rather bleak outlook for our kids and grandkids if we can’t change the trajectory.
“We come here to solve big problems, and it’s not too late to place this country on a sound fiscal path. We can do it, and we must.
“I have come to believe it must start with reforming the process. We must reform the budget process and reform the way Congress works to achieve the results we need. I also happen to believe this commission is our best opportunity in a long time to do so.
“My purpose today is to share the experiences of a commission in the Pennsylvania legislature that worked - that took on a similar systemic long-term problem and found solutions. In fact, it worked so well, I thought it was a good model to tackle budget reform, and before the establishment of this Select Committee, had introduced legislation that would have established a similar joint commission. My hope is that sharing how it worked in Pennsylvania will spark a few thoughts or ideas that could be useful in your work and ultimate success.
“The committee in Pennsylvania was the Basic Education Funding Commission and was tasked with determining a new formula to distribute education dollars to 500 districts across the state. Everyone agreed the current system was completely broken, but multiple attempts to fix it over a period of thirty years had produced absolutely no results.
“The commission was formed, worked for about sixteen months, then provided a unanimous recommendation which was taken up by the legislature, then passed and signed into law by the governor. As the chair of the Senate Education Committee at the time, I was a member of the commission and sponsor of the final bill.
“Several things about the commission were important and may be helpful. The makeup of the committee was important. It was bipartisan and bicameral - three members from each party in each House, including the chairs of relevant committees. It also included three members of the executive branch, including the Budget Secretary and the Education Secretary. All of the key decision-makers were in the room and were included in the process.
“The process itself was equally important. All deliberations were open and transparent. We held multiple hearings across the state, inviting anyone who wanted to participate to testify and provide input, including experts from other states, educators, and members of the general public. This not only provided the best thinking available, but also created a loud echo chamber across the state and buy-in from all stakeholders.
“Remarkably, the work of the commission spanned two administrations, Republican and Democrat. Members from the executive branch changed midway through the process. Even so, the recommendation was unanimous and fully endorsed by the new governor.
“Sticking to the original purpose of the commission was also critical. It was tasked with finding a formula but during hearings received a lot of pressure to increase the scope of its work. We worked really hard to keep the goal narrowly focused on the specific problem that we wanted to fix.
“While your commission may not be designed in exactly the same way as ours in Pennsylvania, I know it can work, and that you can make a difference. I applaud you for your work and believe this is the best opportunity we have to fix the broken federal budget process and deliver real, systemic, and meaningful budget reforms.
“I look forward to the work that you’re doing and to supporting you in the best way we can in the legislature. We share a common goal of wanting to fix the troubled state of our nation’s fiscal health – and that starts with reforming the broken federal budget process.
“Thank you, and I yield back.”
Background on Rep. Smucker's Efforts to Reform the Federal Budget Process
In April of 2017, Rep. Smucker sent a letter to House Budget Committee Chairman Diane Black urging a hearing on comprehensive budget process reform. Additionally, Rep. Smucker cosponsored three bills to provide greater accountability in the federal budget process.
Following these efforts on the House Budget Committee, on January 30, 2018, Rep. Smucker introduced the Joint Commission on Budget Process Reform Act of 2018 – legislation that would establish a bipartisan, bicameral commission to:
- Study procedures on the budget and federal expenditures
- Conduct at least four public hearings to examine potential reforms
- Seek recommendations from economists, experts, members of Congress, federal agencies, educational institutions, state legislatures, and private organizations on ways to reform the budget process
- Draft a bill to amend the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974
- Submit a report to the House and Senate containing the bill it recommends and other matters deemed appropriate