CBO provides budgetary and economic information in a variety of ways and at various points in the legislative process. All of CBO’s products apart from informal cost estimates for legislation being developed privately by Members of Congress or their staffs are available to the Congress and the public on CBO’s website.
CBO regularly publishes projections of economic and budget outcomes which incorporate the assumption that current law regarding federal spending and revenues generally remains in place. Those baseline projections cover the 10-year period used in the Congressional budget process. Most of the reports on those projections also describe the differences between the current projections and previous ones; compare the economic forecast with those of other forecasters; and show the budgetary impact of some alternative policy assumptions.
CBO estimates the budgetary impact of the proposals in the President’s budget using the agency’s own economic forecast and estimating assumptions. CBO’s independent “reestimate” of the President’s budget allows the Congress to compare the Administration’s spending and revenue proposals with CBO’s baseline spending and revenue projections and with other proposals using a consistent set of economic and technical assumptions.
Periodically, CBO produces reference volumes examining options for reducing budget deficits. The volumes include a wide range of options, derived from many sources, for reducing spending and increasing revenues. For each option, CBO presents an estimate of its effects on the budget and a discussion of its pros and cons but makes no recommendations.
CBO provides the Congress with budget projections that go beyond the standard 10-year budget window. Those projections typically span 25 years but can extend as far as 75 years into the future. The projections show the impact of long-term demographic trends and rising health care costs on federal spending, revenues, and deficits. CBO also projects the economic impact of alternative long-term budget policies.
CBO provides formal, written estimates of the cost of virtually every bill “reported” (approved) by Congressional committees to show how the bill would affect spending or revenues over the next 5 or 10 years, depending on the type of spending involved. Each cost estimate includes a section describing the basis for the estimate. For most tax legislation, CBO uses estimates provided by the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, a separate group that works closely with the Congressional tax-writing committees. In addition to formal, written estimates, CBO provides a far greater number of preliminary, informal estimates as committees are considering what legislation to advance, as amendments to legislation are being debated, and at other stages in the legislative process.
In addition to the reports discussed above, CBO prepares analytic reports that examine specific federal programs, aspects of the tax code, and budgetary and economic challenges. The reports cover many areas of federal policy, including health care, economic growth, income security, education, taxes, energy, the environment, national security, financial issues, infrastructure, and more. Most CBO reports present a set of options for changes in the federal programs or tax rules being examined. Such reports generally include estimates of each option’s budgetary effects, economic effects, or both, as well as a discussion of each option’s pros and cons. As with the agency’s other products, these reports make no recommendations. Some CBO reports provide background information about CBO’s other analyses to enhance the transparency of the agency’s work.
Most CBO reports are written at the request of the Chairman or Ranking Minority Member of a committee or subcommittee or of the leadership of either party in the House or Senate. The agency may also present its analyses as testimony before Congressional committees rather than in report format. In addition, CBO managers and analysts sometimes make presentations to professional groups, and slides from those presentations are generally posted on CBO’s website. The agency also sometimes summarizes its analyses in less traditional formats (such as infographics), and those summaries are also available on CBO’s website.
CBO analyzes the costs that proposed legislation would impose on state, local, and tribal governments and on the private sector. CBO produces mandate statements with its cost estimates for each committee-approved bill.
CBO issues a monthly analysis of federal spending and revenue totals for the previous month, the current month, and the fiscal year to date.
CBO provides the budget and appropriations committees with frequent tabulations of Congressional action affecting spending and revenues. Those scorekeeping reports provide information about whether legislative actions are consistent with the spending and revenue levels set by the budget resolution.
CBO regularly prepares reports listing all programs and activities funded for the current fiscal year for which authorizations of appropriations have expired or will expire during the current fiscal year.
The Congress established the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in 2008 to stabilize financial markets. CBO regularly provides its estimate of the costs of the program and a comparison of that estimate to the preceding estimate from the Administration's Office of Management and Budget.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) requires CBO to comment on reports filed by recipients of ARRA funding about the number of jobs funded by ARRA. CBO’s reports provide the agency’s own estimates of the effects of ARRA on total output and jobs.
CBO is required to publish estimates of the caps on funding for discretionary programs for each fiscal year through 2021 and to report whether, according to those estimates, a sequestration (a cancellation of budgetary resources) would be required. However, the Administration’s Office of Management and Budget ultimately makes the determination of whether a sequestration is required based on its own estimates.
CBO’s working papers include papers that provide technical descriptions of official CBO analyses and papers that represent independent research by CBO analysts. Through those papers, CBO aims to enhance the transparency of its work and to encourage external review of that work. Working papers are not subject to CBO’s regular review and editing process.
To provide more detail about CBO’s budgetary and economic projections and to add to the transparency of CBO’s other analyses, the agency posts a considerable amount of data and other technical information on its website.