How to build a better budget process

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Mike Veselik, managing director of the Building a Better Budget Process project at the Convergence Center for Policy Resolution, discusses their report on streamlining the budget process at all levels of government, and why federal stakeholders want “predictability.”


Before Congress left Capitol Hill for summer recess, the Senate managed to pass a four bill “mini bus” spending package, that addressed funding for the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Transportation, Housing and Urban and Development, and a number of other agencies. Now, Congress is up against a deadline again, with only a few working weeks left for members of Congress before the of the end of the fiscal year on September 30.

 

The Convergence Center for Policy Resolution took a closer look at the budget process in its “Building a Better Budget Process” report. The document lays out recommendations to make the budget process smoother for both Congress and agency decision makers. Mike Veselik, managing director of the Building a Better Budget Process project at Convergence, said that they interviewed 100 federal stakeholders, and each one wanted more “predictability” in the process

 

“The initial diagnosis is that the process is broken. Each stakeholder had a different opinion about what was not working and what was working. They each brought their own perspective based on where they worked inside the federal government. During our first meeting, we asked them to put up sticky notes on a timeline of the federal budget process and 75 percent of those sticky notes were negative,” said Veselik. “One of the principles the group agreed [was necessary] in the process is predictability. Knowing the spending level, knowing when these bills are going to be passed. If it is two weeks late, fine; it is two weeks late. But you know it’s two weeks late every year, rather than, is it coming at all? Can I plan for that? Do I know that this grant will come through?”