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U.S. Budget and Government Spending: Introduction to U.S. Budget Process

Resources on the U.S. Budget and Federal spending.

Free Public Access to Government Information

Free public access to United States government documents in a federal depository library is guaranteed by law (44 USC §1911).  While UC Berkeley houses one of the most comprehensive collections of U.S. government documents in the country, the Library is one of over a thousand Federal Depository Libraries across the United States, and one of several Federal Depository Libraries in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Budget Process

Over the past several years, there has been increased interest in the Budget of the United States.  This guide will explain how the budget is created, and how the United States spends its money.

The budget process starts 12-14 months (or more) prior to start of the fiscal year. In September or October of the prior year, agencies start making requests for funding to the President. On the first Monday in February, the President submits several budget documents to Congress. The Congressional Budget Office examines and evaluates the president's budget and issues three main reports during the next few months:

  • Budget and Economic Outlook report in mid-Februrary
  • Budget Options report in March
  • Analysis of the President's Budgetary Proposals in April.

During this time, the House and Senate budget committees hold hearings and issue reports for the various appropriations legislation. By the end of June, Congress finishes its actions on the appropriations bills and the President will submit a Mid-Season Budget Review by July 15. The President may also issue sequestrations of the budget at this time. Just like any other piece of legislation, all appropriations bills must be the same when they pass Congress before they are sent to the President. The President must sign the legislation for the budget to become law. If the President does not sign the legislation by October 1 (the start of the fiscal year) the Federal Government can shut down. Once the President signs the bill, the budget takes effect on October 1. The final step in the budget process occurs around December when the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) determines if cuts are needed and the White House Office of Management and Budget estimates how much discressionary spending is available.

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