Welcome to the Art of Scorekeeping!
I’m using this website to explain and advocate for changes to Federal budget enforcement rules that are consistent with best practices and provide better incentives for policy officials to make efficient choices. Our current budget enforcement system of discretionary caps and PAYGO serves the useful purpose of enforcing budget deals between the Congress and the President, but we could and should make adjustments that create better budget incentives and lead to more efficient outcomes.
How the Federal Government budgets for expensive federally-owned capital assets is an example. We issue lots of excellent guidance to agencies about capital planning best practices, but our current budget system does a poor job of planning for these funding needs where it counts — when Congress approves appropriations bills. Before I retired from OMB, I helped design and draft legislation for a new budget mechanism — a Federal Capital Revolving Fund — that would greatly improve budget incentives in this area. Read about the problem and the solution here.
I want to be clear that I’m advocating for limited and targeted changes to budget enforcement. The Federal budget scoring rules are based on concepts and best practices that have stood the test of time. Their primary function is to make the full cost of legislation transparent so that decision-makers and the public have the information and incentive to make efficient decisions. By and large, the rules do this well.
When program advocates criticize the scoring rules, it’s frequently because the cost of their legislative proposals can’t stand the light of day. Their proposed “fixes” to the rules are usually gimmicks designed to obfuscate costs and give unfair advantage to their proposals in the annual competition for funding.
As an OMB scorekeeper from 1984-2019, I worked to apply the rules consistently and fairly, and to improve the rules where they were not working appropriately. I’m not interested in scoring gimmicks. I fought off far too many of them during my 35 year career. With a $1 trillion gap in 2020 between Federal commitments and our willingness to pay for them, we don’t need scoring gimmicks that hide costs.
Art Stigile, retired OMB scorekeeper
The Art Of Scorekeeping
May 26, 2019