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US Rep. Johnson Plans to Introduce Two Year Budget Plan

Republican Congressman Tim Johnson of Urbana says he will introduce legislation that would require lawmakers to approve a budget every two years, rather than each year.

The measure would also establish an appropriations cycle starting Oct. 1 of each odd-numbered year, and any budget or appropriations bill passed by one chamber would have to be voted on in the other chamber within a two-week period. Johnson said there also couldn't be any hods, filibusters once one chamber acts.

Johnson said his budget plan will also give the federal government more time to assess how well agencies and departments use money that they are appropriated.

Illinois, which has a multi-billion dollar budget deficit, is on an annual budget cycle. Meanwhile, Indiana passes a budget every other year. Johnson said Indiana's billion dollar surplus is a testament that such a plan works.

"They have a surplus every year," Johnson said. "Look at what we're doing in Illinois. Illinois is an abyss of fiscal stewardship. No state in the union is operating worse than Illinois, and it has for years. So, if Indiana is our partial model, and looking at the results they have, I in many ways am glad to look at the model."

But John Ketzenberger, president of the non-partisan Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute, said there isn't much connection between his state's budget cycle and its surplus. He noted that there are other reasons why Indiana has a surplus.

"There were more than a billion dollars in cuts," Ketzenberger explained. "When the recession started, more than a billion dollars in reserve, and the state used about $2 billion dollars in federal stimulus money over the course of the recession."

Ketzenberger said Indiana's biennial budget plan has helped the state by encouraging more fiscal discipline.

Johnson is running for re-election in a newly drawn 13th congressional district, which includes Champaign, Decatur, Bloomington, Springfield, and the Metro East area near St. Louis. He said he expects to get bipartisan support for his legislation.

His Democratic challenger, David Gill of Bloomington, said he would also support a two-year window for approving the federal budget. However, Gill criticized Johnson, saying his decision to vote against raising the nation's debt ceiling shows he doesn't have any credibility in tackling budget issues.

"The fact that he voted against that bipartisan deal to raise the deficit after the Democrats had compromised, and bent over backwards in terms of spending cuts and any kind of increased revenues," Gill said. "That makes me question where he's coming from and how much of his proposal for a two-year budget simply is playing politics."

Gill ran unsuccessful bids against Johnson in 2004, 2006, and 2010. Former Illinois lawmaker, Democrat Jay Hoffman of Collinsville, is also considering a run for the Congressional seat, but he hasn't announced his candidacy.

Categories: Economics, Government, Politics