Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/washington/news.aspx?id=63645
Story Retrieval Date: 5/18/2013 10:13:57 AM CST
What's a fiscal year?
The government's fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. It's a 12-month period that's used for business purposes. Usually, a business or organization can establish when its fiscal year begins and ends as long as it's 12 consecutive months. The most popular ending months are September and December.
Why wouldn’t you choose the calendar year?
Many businesses want to avoid ending their fiscal year during the Christmas and New Year’s season, when inventory is fluctuating and employees are taking off. Many universities also want their fiscal years to coincide with the academic year and end in the summer months.
So where's the federal government’s budget for 2008?
There isn't one – yet. There are 12 bills that together comprise the budget and provide money for everything from the war in Iraq to health insurance for lower-income children.
What's taking so long?
It's rare that none of the spending bills, called appropriation bills, have not been passed by Oct.1, as is the case this year. In fact, this is the first time in five years that not a single bill has been signed into law by the fiscal new year. In previous years, at least spending for the Department of Homeland Security and the Defense Department have been decided by the deadline. For 2008, President Bush has promised to veto nine of the pending bills, including the first budget bill sent to him last week, because they cost too much or have provisions he dislikes.
So what's with this vetoing?
Experts have said Bush is trying to turn over a new leaf of fiscal responsibility at a time when his approval ratings are low. This would allow him to leave office on a better note. Another explanation is that Congress is passing bills that are just too costly.
How much cash are we talking about?
The House of Representatives has passed 12 budget bills so far, which total $23 billion more than the $933 billion Bush proposed for those aspects in his own budget plan for 2008. But the president’s overall budget proposal for 2008 is $2.7 trillion (that’s 2.7 followed by 11 zeros, in case that’s a number you don’t use every day).
With no 2008 budget, will my government offices and parks have to shut down?
Not yet. Congress has approved a bill that allows government offices to continue to spend at the same rate as the 2007 fiscal year until Nov. 16. Called a stopgap, it buys Congress and the president more time to work out a proper budget.
Why can't they just use stopgaps permanently then?
The stopgap bill doesn't allow for monetary increases. This creates problems for organizations such as the Census Bureau, which is gearing up for a 2010 nationwide census and needs this year's funding for preparations that would ensure an accurate count. Because the census only happens every decade, precise numbers are important for distributing federal funding and assigning the amount of elected officials in the House of Representatives.