The Legislative Branch: The Next BIllion Dollar Bureaucracy
Government Finance Brief No. 26
Foreword In recent years the Tax Foundation has published a series of research studies focused upon Federal government programs and policies and their cost implications. These analyses dealt with matters involving both legislative decisions and Executive Branch policy and its administration. This analysis deals exclusively with the operations of the Legislative Branch—the Congress and those agencies which serve or are accountable to it.
The operating costs of the Legislative Branch have increased significantly in recent years and are certain within a year or two to reach an annual level of $1 billion or more. These costs doubled between 1960 and 1970 and have further increased almost three-fold since 1970, to about $925 million in the current year.
Almost half of the 1976 total (46 percent) is for direct operations of the Congress—$426 million, as compared to $173 million in 1970. This represents an increase over this period of 146 percent: total budget outlays rose by 90 percent in the same period. A substantial part of the total is for staff salaries which, as the analysis demonstrates, are high by almost any standard.
Budget requests of Executive Branch agencies are scrutinized in detail and revised by the Congress. However, Congress establishes its own budget, sets its own staff levels, pay scales, allowances, etc. In large part this is done by adoption of simple resolutions or committee edict, not subject to review or approval by the Executive. Moreover, the methods by which these perquisites of office are provided often permit Members of Congress greater flexibility and discretion in the use of appropriated funds than is granted to other Federal Agencies.
The recent growth of the legislative bureaucracy and its rapidly increasing cost have been the target of criticism, even within some congressional circles. This analysis reviews this growth and, while providing an overview of the entire Legislative Branch, focuses primarily upon the operations of the Congress, its staffing and pay policies, the benefits, allowances, and special services available to Members, and other relevant matters.
Maynard H. Waterfield, Director of Federal Affairs, had primary responsibility for the research and preparation of this report.