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Researching the Federal Budget

Key Budget Terms

Brief Overview of the Federal Budget Process


Key Budget Terms

Brief Overview of the Current Federal Budget Process

The budget process starts 12-14 months (or more) prior to start of the fiscal year. In September or October of the prior year, agencies start making requests for funding to the President. On the first monday in February, the President submits several budget documents to Congress. The Congressional Budget Office examines and evaluates the president's budget and issues three main reports during the next few months: Budget and Economic Outlook report in mid-Februrary; Budget Options report in March; and Analysis of the President's Budgetary Proposals in April. During this time, the House and Senate budget committees hold hearings and issue reports for the various appropriations legislation. By the end of June, Congress finishes its actions on the appropriations bills and the President will submit a Mid-Season Budget Review by July 15. The President may also issue sequestrations of the budget at this time. Just like any other piece of legislation, all appropriations bills must be the same when they pass Congress before they are sent to the President. The President must sign the legislation for the budget to become law. If the President does not sign the legislation by October 1 (the start of the fiscal year) the Federal Government can shut down. Once the President signs the bill, the budget takes effect on October 1. The final step in the budget process occurs around December when the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) determines if cuts are needed and the White House Office of Management and Budget estimates how much discressionary spending is available.

Selected Resources

Budget of the United States Government
The President's budget proposal based on estimates from the previous year's budget and requests from agencies, issued on the first Monday of February.

Budget of the United States Goverment, Appendix

Includes much more detail than the Budget of the United States Government, including funding for each agency and office within the agency.

Budget of the United States Government, Analytical Perspectives

Provides analyses on specified subject areas or provides other significant presentations of budget data that place the budget in perspective.

Budget of the United States Government, Historical Tables

Provides historical information on various appropriations and expenditures with some tables going back to the 1920's.

Economic Report of the President

Reports federal budget receipts, outlays, surpluses and deficits. Some tables go back to 1929.

Budget and Economic Outlook (title varies)
From the Congressional Budget Office, a report on the state of the economy and the president' proposed budget

Budget Options
From the Congressional Budget Office, presents alternate fiscal strategies and estimates of tax expenditures.

An Analysis of the President's Budgetary Proposals for Fiscal Year
From the Congressional Budget Office, evaluates the economic assumptions and budget estimates and presents possible alternative estimates.

Financial Report of the United States
Similar to company's annual report, the Financial Report of the United States provides an overall view of the government's financial health, including future projections. From 1998-

Appropriations, Budget Estimates, etc...[CD only]
CD containing all the final appropriations bills and budget estimates for each session of Congress. Please note that a session of Congress lasts two years.

Current Status of Appropriations Bills

From the Library of Congress, shows the current status as the appropriations bill moves through Congress, from 1998-

Appropriations Bills

Maintained by the Senate Library, legislative histories of Approprations Bills, from 1992-

Treasury Bulletin

Provides receipts by source for the last five years and last 12 months by agency.

Monthly Treasury Statement

From the Financial Management Service of the US Treasury Summarizes the financial activities of the federal government and off-budget federal entities.

Combined Statement of Receipts, Outlays, and Balances of the United States Government

The official publication of receipts and outlays for the fiscal year, from 2001-. Previously called the United States Government Annual Report.

Government Accountability Office Reports

Previously known as the General Accounting Office, the GAO is the "investigative arm of Congress," and studies how federal money is spent.

Statistical Abstract of the United States

Brief tables of expenditures, outlays and budget receipts can be found in the chapter Budgets and Finance (exact chapter title may vary).