Predicted flavor of budget: 'Vanilla'
- By Paula Shaki Trimble
- Nov 05, 2000
The presidential election Nov. 7 will bring little change to the federal
budget environment, which is good news for government contractors, according
an industry expert on the federal budget.
A new administration probably will not impact what happens in federal
budgeting, spending or the size of the surplus, Stanley Collender, senior
vice president of Fleishman-Hillard Inc., said in his address to federal
information technology contractors Nov. 2 at the Government Electronics
and Information Technology Association 2000 Vision Conference in Arlington,
Whichever party ends up in the majority after the election, Congress
is expected to be the most evenly divided in recent history; there will
be little bipartisan cooperation; and there will be no consensus for at
least two years on what to do with the surplus, Collender said.
Without a sizable majority in Congress to get things done, there will
be a "vanilla-izing" of the next Congress, which likely will have an ever-shifting
coalition of members to make decisions, Collender said.
Under those conditions, there might be incremental changes, but there
will be no grand agenda to reform Social Security or the tax system, he
said. In particular, the much-publicized surplus probably will turn out
to be half the size estimated, he said.
"All this is nothing but good news for industry that does business in
government," he said.
Without a surplus to spend on sweeping changes promised in the campaigns,
the only thing left for Congress to do is boost the discretionary budget
that is appropriated to federal agencies, Collender said. Most of the money
probably will be added to agencies' appropriations on Capitol Hill rather
than in the president's annual request, he said.
"We are likely to see a renewed emphasis on appropriations — to make
it look like something's being done," Collender said, but he cautioned,
"As much additional money there is for some of these agencies to spend,
there will be that many more people trying to sell to government."
The government has little experience with a surplus, Collender said.
The existence of a deficit for so long has reduced the budget process to
a deficit-reduction process, he said.
Larry Allen, executive director of the Coalition for Government Procurement,
an organization for federal contractors, agreed with Collender that a vacuum
exists in terms anyone willing to lead a coherent budget process.
"The logical progression is that everyone's going to roll around with
their fingers in the blueberry pie for so long, there will be nothing left
and we'll be back to a deficit, and then we'll know what to do," Allen said.