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Budget Windows, Sunsets, and Fiscal Control

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  • Alan J. Auerbach

Abstract

Governments around the world have struggled to find the right method of controlling public spending and budget deficits. In recent years, the United States has evaluated policy changes using a ten-year budget window. The use of a multi-year window is intended to capture the future effects of policies, the notion being that a budget window that is too short permits the shifting of costs beyond the window's endpoint. But a budget window that is too long includes future years for which current legislation is essentially meaningless, and gives credit to fiscal burdens shifted to those whom the budget rules are supposed to protect. This suggests that there may be an "optimal"budget window, and seeking to understand its properties is one of this paper's main objectives. Another objective is to understand a phenomenon that has grown in importance in U.S. legislation -- the "sunset." This paper argues that, with an appropriately designed budget window, the incentive to use sunsets to avoid budget restrictions will evaporate, so that temporary provisions can be taken at face value. The analysis also has implications for how to account for long-term term budget commitments.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan J. Auerbach, 2004. "Budget Windows, Sunsets, and Fiscal Control," NBER Working Papers 10694, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10694
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    1. Torsten Persson & Lars E. O. Svensson, 1989. "Why a Stubborn Conservative would Run a Deficit: Policy with Time-Inconsistent Preferences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 104(2), pages 325-345.
    2. Alberto Alesina & Guido Tabellini, 1990. "A Positive Theory of Fiscal Deficits and Government Debt," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 57(3), pages 403-414.
    3. Jagadeesh Gokhale & Kent Smetters, 2003. "Fiscal and generational imbalances: new budget measures for new budget priorities," Policy Discussion Papers, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, issue Dec.
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    Cited by:

    1. Alan J. Auerbach, 2014. "Budget Rules and Fiscal Policy: Ten Lessons from Theory and Evidence," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 15(1), pages 84-99, February.
    2. Matthew D. Shapiro & Christopher L. House, 2006. "Phased-In Tax Cuts and Economic Activity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1835-1849, December.
    3. Veronica Grembi & Tommaso Nannicini & Ugo Troiano, 2011. "Policy Responses to Fiscal Restraints: A Difference-in-Discontinuities Design," Working Papers 397, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    4. Roel M.W.J. Beetsma & Frederick van der Ploeg, 2007. "Partisan Public Investment and Debt: The Case for Fiscal Restrictions," Economics Working Papers ECO2007/37, European University Institute.
    5. Alan Auerbach, 2009. "US Experience with Federal Budget Rules," ifo DICE Report, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 7(1), pages 41-48, 04.
    6. repec:ces:ifodic:v:7:y:2009:i:1:p:14567022 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Vlaicu, Razvan & Verhoeven, Marijn & Grigoli, Francesco & Mills, Zachary, 2014. "Multiyear budgets and fiscal performance: Panel data evidence," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 79-95.
    8. Fagan, Frank & Bilgel, Fırat, 2015. "Sunsets and federal lawmaking: Evidence from the 110th Congress," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 1-6.
    9. Alan J. Auerbach, 2008. "Federal Budget Rules: The US Experience," NBER Working Papers 14288, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Toshihiro Ihori, 2014. "Commitment, Deficit Ceiling, and Fiscal Privilege," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-920, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.
    11. Toshihiro Ihori, 2014. "Commitment, Deficit Ceiling, and Fiscal Privilege," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 70(4), pages 511-526, December.
    12. Beetsma, Roel & van der Ploeg, Frederick, 2007. "The Political Economy of Public Investment," CEPR Discussion Papers 6090, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    13. Toshihiro Ihori, 2015. "Flexibility of Deficit Ceiling and Income Fluctuation," Public Policy Review, Policy Research Institute, Ministry of Finance Japan, vol. 11(2), pages 231-246, March.
    14. Fleck, Robert K. & Hanssen, F. Andrew, 2010. "Repeated adjustment of delegated powers and the history of eminent domain," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 99-112, June.
    15. Frank Fagan, 2013. "After the sunset: the residual effect of temporary legislation," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 36(1), pages 209-226, August.
    16. Krause, Alan, 2009. "Optimal nonlinear income taxation with learning-by-doing," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(9-10), pages 1098-1110, October.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H62 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Deficit; Surplus
    • H50 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - General

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