What’s government doing for you today? House legislators want to know

From: Gimby News Focus

Brooks Hays

Want to know the parameters of every single government program — how much it costs, who’s working on it, which Americans it benefits? According to a report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), getting all that information together will cost roughly $100 million over the next four years.

The CBO was asked to do the math by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which recently reviewed and sent a bill called the Taxpayers Right-To-Know Act to the floor for discussion by the rest of the House of Representatives.

The bill, introduced earlier this year by Oklahoma Representative James Lankford, calls for every federal agency to issue a sort of annual report for each program they oversee. The report card, which would be published online for the public, would offer a description of each program, a list of staff involved, a rundown of administrative costs, and basic performance metrics.

Earlier this summer, Americans for Prosperity, a limited-government political advocacy group founded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, sent Lankford a letter applauding the bill: “Its passage is an essential first step to ensure Washington’s spending is transparent and under control.”

Upon the bill’s move from committee to the House floor, Lankford defended the bill in a statement, saying “We must continue to roll back Washington’s excessive regulatory scheme in favor of a more accountable and efficient federal government.”

In addition to requiring federal agencies to compose thousands of report cards, the bill mandates that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) compile an annual report identifying all duplicative federal programs. The bill also calls on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to use that report to update and maintain a public database of all duplicative programs.

While the bill does not include any new mechanism to pay for these mandates, Lankford and its supporters say the duplicative programs identified would free up billions of dollars, thus offsetting any implementation costs.

Theoretically, the bill, if passed, could help identify duplication in the federal government, but it would also create some of its own, the CBO found. The Congressional Budget Office found that the bill contains provisions that were already put into law with the passage of the Government Performance and Results Act, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993 and updated in 2011 with the GPRA Modernization Act.

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