Chairman Womack Opening Remarks at FY 2019 Budget Markup

As prepared for delivery during today’s hearing:

Good afternoon, and welcome to the House Budget Committee. Thank you to everyone joining us today as we undergo the most important duty of this committee: completion of the annual budget resolution.

Not unlike past years, there were some delays in fulfilling our responsibility this year, including the later receipt of CBO’s baseline—the starting point from which the budget must be built.

But despite the delayed start, it is still the duty of this committee to each year produce this important document, and it is a role we take seriously.

Today, I am pleased the Committee is fulfilling our duty to advance our balanced, responsible, and optimistic vision for fiscal year 2019: Budget for a Brighter American Future.

If America’s past serves as any indication, the future has been and always will be bright for this nation.

Indeed, history books have long told the story of American exceptionalism, which continues to beam bright in every state and inspire around the globe because of the strong, enterprising spirit and drive of the American people.

However, while America has an extraordinary past and is making positive economic strides for our future thanks to tax reform, there are some very real fiscal challenges casting a shadow of doubt on long-term prosperity.

These are challenges that must not be ignored… they must be overcome. And in order to do so, tough decisions must be made in the short-term.

The federal government is spending far more than it takes in. Largely due to the unchecked growth of mandatory – or autopilot – spending, we’re rapidly adding to the national debt. Today, it stands at more than $21 trillion, and the annual deficit will reach nearly $1 trillion next year.

But this should not come as a surprise to anyone… it should serve as yet another urgent call for solutions that ensure a brighter future for generations of Americans to come.

Of course confronting years of imbalance is not easy. Nor is it impossible. This budget is a balanced budget.

To responsibly balance in nine years, our budget calls for thoughtful reforms and government-wide savings. And we achieve surpluses by fiscal year 2027.

The largest looming shadow of doubt on America’s future is, quite simply, the extent of the nation’s debt.

In response, our budget significantly addresses the single greatest driver of that debt: mandatory spending.

More than two-thirds of federal dollars are spent on mandatory programs, including safety-net programs like Medicare and Social Security. Because these programs are not reviewed on an annual basis, they grow unsustainably.

To be clear, there is a critical need for mandatory programs and the benefits they provide for our most vulnerable Americans. But absent reform, reality will be harsh.

In fact, it’s not a matter of if but when programs will be unable to fulfill their promise. According to CBO, insolvency for some could come as early as 2026.

Our budget calls for reforms to save those programs upon which many vulnerable Americans depend while easing the fiscal burden placed on future generations.

In the same spirit of fiscal responsibility as the Committee’s plan last year, our budget takes mandatory savings achieved through reconciliation even further – increasing the target for authorizing committees by nearly $100 billion to $302 billion. This is significant.

In fact, this is the largest amount of deficit reduction called for through reconciliation instructions in more than two decades. Since that time, mandatory spending growth has exploded as a result of new and growing programs, making it more important than ever to achieve significant deficit reduction.

Despite our debt problem, the economy is exhibiting positive signs of recovery thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Our budget builds on tax reform’s success. It calls for pro-growth policies that rein in needless regulations on job creators and empower would-be American entrepreneurs.

Mindful that taxpayer dollars are a hard-earned resource, Budget for a Brighter American Future calls for their efficient use and effective stewardship while strengthening accountability and cutting back waste.

Finally, our budget respects the Constitutional powers granted to state and local governments. It scales back overreach of the Federal Government and restores more state and local decision-making authority so that the unique needs of each and every American citizen are better served nationwide.

While America’s future has always appeared bright, our current fiscal challenges threaten that. Turning the country is difficult, but it is not impossible. We can change America’s current fiscal path and ensure a brighter future for generations to come.

This budget – a Budget for a Brighter American Future – provides the vision to do so, and I am proud to present it here today before our Committee.

With that, I yield to the Ranking Member, Mr. Yarmuth.