Temporary-Effect Legislation, Political Accountability, and Fiscal Restraint
85 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2009 Last revised: 27 Jun 2014
Date Written: April 2009
This essay shows that after taking into account the budget accounting rules in the legislative process, it is preferable to pass 'temporary' legislation - laws with an explicit expiration date or 'sunset' feature - rather than permanent legislation to promote political accountability and fiscal restraint. Barring estimation error, the full cost of temporary, but not permanent, legislation is revealed to Congress and the public both at the time policy choices are first initiated and when they are renewed. The nation’s rapidly deteriorating fiscal situation, due in part to the economic crisis of 2008 and 2009, highlights the importance of understanding the budgetary effects of these legislative practices before Congress approves further deficit-increasing changes in the areas of health care, climate change, or other entitlement or tax programs. This essay is an updated and abbreviated version of George K. Yin, Temporary-Effect Legislation, Political Accountability, and Fiscal Restraint, 84 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 174 (2009).
Keywords: Temporary Legislation, Permanent Legislation, Federal Budget, Political Accountability, Fiscal Responsibility, Fiscal Restraint, Legislative Process, Budget Process, Sunset, Expiring Legislation
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation