Groups coalesce behind $500B in budget cuts

A prominent conservative taxpayer group has joined forces with a liberal consumer advocacy organization to present a budget-cutting proposal to the ongoing House-Senate budget conference committee.

The National Taxpayers Union and U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) on Thursday unveiled $500 billion worth of mutually agreed upon budget cuts.

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The cuts include changes to farm subsidies, defense acquisitions and Medicare. These are especially timely as members of Congress this month are negotiating a five-year farm bill, a defense authorization bill and how to pay for a Medicare “doc fix” to prevent a sudden cut to physician payments scheduled for the new year.

“While our organizations have typically differed about the proper regulatory role of government and a host of tax policies, we are united in the belief that we spend far too much money on ineffective programs that do not serve the best interests of the American people,” the groups state.

They say the 60 recommendations in the report are an attempt to corral the “low hanging fruit” to break the budget deadlock, and note that 20 out of 30 recommendations they made to President Obama’s 2010 deficit commission were accepted. 

The plan gets $197 billion from cuts to the Pentagon and $152 billion from cutting subsidies, including to farmers. It gets $132 billion from entitlements like Medicare and $42 billion from ending duplicative programs and systems like information technology. 

Many of the items have surfaced repeatedly over the years, from ending the V-22 Osprey aircraft program to eliminating direct payment subsidies to agriculture.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) are trying to finish a budget agreement by a Dec. 13 deadline. The deal on the table could replace some agency sequester cuts with other cuts or fee increases. 

Ryan and Murray have been focusing on a much smaller deal of $60 billion to $85 billion total.

Pete Sepp of NTU said that any sequester replacement has to be made with "honest" cuts, such as those the groups are proposing, and "not gimmicks."

“When it comes to setting aside excuses and putting the budget on a more sustainable path, U.S. PIRG and NTU have shown there’s a bipartisan direction for doing so," he said.

"The stark choice now is between good cuts and across-the-board cuts," said Jaimie Woo of U.S. PIRG.

—This post was updated at 11:21 a.m.

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