February 27 1913
Sends Special message to Congress
Pointing Out advantages to be Derived
GREAT SAVING TO THE GOVERNMENT
Reduction of the Salary Roll
Is Advocated and Elimination of Much of Waste
Washington, Feb. 26--President Taft today sent to congress his much discussed "budget" message. he recommended the adoption of a budget system of relating proposed expenditures to expected revenues, and declared that congress would be greatly benefited by having before it such a statement before it began the annual grind upon appropriation bills. The United States, the president wrote, was the only great nation in the world which did not use the budget system, and in consequence it "may be said to be without plan or programme." He indicated that owing to the late day at which he was able to transmit his message, he expected little legislation on the topic from the present congress.
The president took full responsibility for the message upon himself. Congress in the last sundry civil bill directed the secretary of the treasury to submit estimates hereafter in the old way. mr. Taft pointed out, however, that he had directed the secretary of the treasury to agree with the directions of congress and also to send to him information for a budget message. He referred congress also to the portion of the constitution which requires him from time to time to recommend such measures as he shall deem necessary and expedient.
POINTS OUT ADVANTAGES
Some of the advantages of the budget system as pointed out by the president were:
-A means of locating responsibility for estimates in keeping with revenues.
-A means of allowing congress to see how much gross it will have to spend before it begins appropriating for each department or detail of government machinery.
-Because it would furnish congress and the public with ready reference to reports and detailed records of account.
-Because it would produce an adequate organization for assembling and classifying information to be used in telling the country what has been done and of the government's future needs.
-To aid in working with a well defined purpose in many bureaus hitherto organized, but directed under an inconsistent and ill defined program.
-To cancel the nation's debt, through a sinking fund, and to eliminate the deficit, which is slowly growing.
-To carry out the budget plan, to reduce the deficit and the fixed charges against the government, the president proposed:
SINKING FUND COMMISSION
To create a sinking fund commission to consist of the chairman of the finance committee of the senate, the chairman of the house ways and means committee, the attorney general and the secretary of the treasury, with the comptroller of the treasury as annual auditor of the sinking fund account. Legislation which would wipe out the national debt in twenty years after July 1, 1914; congress should set aside $45,000,000 annually for that purpose. That would be $15,000,000 a year less than the present amount required by law. That fund should be invested in 3 per cent government bonds and in twenty years the $1,160,000,000 debt the president says, would be retired.
The adoption of a definite theory is recommended for future proposals for internal improvements so that such improvements would be in accord with a well thought out plan. In that connection the president suggested the saving of the rent paid in Washington for buildings used by the government through the construction of new buildings to cost about $100,000,000 to be paid for through a period of twenty years.
SAVING IN SALARIES
"Briefly stated" wrote the President, "my suggestion is that the government first plan for its land purchases, buildings and public works, then borrow money to acquire and to construct them, proportioning the cost over a period of twenty years, and making the bonds issued to meet the cost payable out of an adequate sinking fund."
Of a reduction of the salary roll of the government, amounting to about $6,500,000 annually, two-thirds, the president declared, would be saved by adopting his scheme to classify what are now presidential appointments. Almost $3,000,000 annually could be kept in government coffers through post office department changes. The sum of $2,000,000 would be cut from the payroll. Mr. Taft continued, if there were a complete executive reclassification of civil service employees. Under this head the president wrote:
"In the present situation many men at the bottom are receiving larger salaries than would be obtained for similar work in outside employment, whereas men in higher positions carrying great responsibility and the success of whose performance depends on training and long experiences, are inadequately paid. From the viewpoint of the rank and file there is little hope of reward for merit. The foundation for reclassification of salaries already has been laid. In my opinion it would enable the government to pay higher salaries to those of whom experience, training, and initiative are required and make the saving of $2,000,000."
ELIMINATION OF WASTE
Elimination of waste in the distribution of public documents; reduction of the number of United States assay offices and possibly the number of mints and their consolidation into one, are other recommendations.
"With much hesitation," the president recommends the organization of a budget committee of congress. It should act as a final clearing house through which all the recommendations of committees having to do with revenues and expenditures would pass before they take the form of bills.
"The special reason I have for urging this committee," wrote the president, "is that at present the administration is seriously handicapped by not being able to take up proposals for constructive measures affecting any particular department with any one body or committee which will undertake to consider them in all their aspects."
Going further, the president suggested that appropriation should be in the following classes:
-To cover overhead and operating cost.
-For upkeep of property.
-For fixed charges, including sinking fund.
Concluding, he says: "The government is not only in the position of having gone along for a century without a budget, but what is at this time even more to the point, it has not the organic means either for preparing or for considering one. I am recommending that congress make some organic provision whereby the administrative and legislative branch may co-ordinate their efforts in the development of the future activities of the government as well as for the determination of the expenditures needed for the current transaction of its business."