President Biden’s initial dalliance into the Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request is finally here. This “skinny” budget is not like the typical skinny budget. It’s like looking into a mirror at the carnival. In one view it’s pretty thin, only 58 pages quickly describing discretionary spending, but no mandatory or revenue proposals, just a couple tables at the end. On the other hand, it’s pretty big. Every Cabinet Department sees a percentage increase in budget authority over fiscal year 2021. Only Defense and Homeland Security get less than five percent increases. Even then a 1.6 percent increase in defense spending is $11.6 billion, which is a bigger dollar increase than every cabinet department and agency except Education and Health and Human Services. Also every major agency besides the Corps of Engineers sees a greater than six percent increase as well. And before anyone thinks the Corps cut is real, this is a game administrations play. Congress loves, loves, loves the Corps and their water projects. Every administration, Republican and Democrat, cuts the Corps budget request compared to the previous year’s enacted level knowing that lawmakers will add billions of dollars to their budget.
And of course, this $1.5 trillion one-year proposal to fund government comes on top of the nearly two trillion dollar COVID-19 relief and stimulus package (American Rescue Plan, P.L.117-2) that has already been adopted, and the two trillion dollar “American Jobs Plan” that has been proposed. It’s not clear how these various proposals complement, conflict, or overlap with one another. And it won’t be clear until the full budget proposal comes out in a few months. Even then it is far from a certainty that the dust will be settled on the final “infrastructure plus” legislation.
Every President’s Budget Request is aspirational. It isn’t reality and in many cases doesn’t even reflect the actual outcome the president desires, like the Corps of Engineers funding level. It is meant to set a tone and a bar to measure lawmakers’ budgetary response.
We’ll review the budget booklet that has been released, but the real rubber will hit the budgetary road when the full budget comes out in a few months.