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In this question Why are US budget implications estimated "over 10 years"? the question was, why are budget impacts frequently estimated over 10 years.

The accepted answer was it's the law. 2 U.S. Code § 933.PAYGO estimates and PAYGO scorecards, requires it.

(4) 5-year scorecard
The first scorecard shall display the budgetary effects of PAYGO legislation in each year over the 5-year period beginning in the budget year.

(5) 10-year scorecard
The second scorecard shall display the budgetary effects of PAYGO legislation in each year over the 10-year period beginning in the budget year.

Why was this law formulated this way? What is the purpose of requiring specifically 5 year and 10 year periods for such items? The 10 year period will necessarily be outside the current administration. Why 10 years, and not more?

  • Is there any reason to think that it is anything more than "a nice round number"? – James K Feb 14 at 22:34
  • I suspect you're overthinking this. 5 and 10 are nice round numbers in the decimal system we use for counting years. If we used a duodecimal system, I suspect the law would have been written with 6 and 12 year checks. – Ted Wrigley Feb 14 at 22:37
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Why was this law formulated this way?

To be consistent with rules established by Congress and prior law.

What is the purpose of requiring specifically 5 year and 10 year periods for such items?

The first use of a 5 year analysis was at the creation of the Congressional Budget Office in 1974. It is likely that the 10 year analysis was added to better control the the budget in regard to deficits.

The 10 year period will necessarily be outside the current administration. Why 10 years, and not more?

The Senate has a long-term rule for legislation that includes four additional decades; currently, to the budget year 2079. There are long-term budget projections going out as far as 70 years.


Long-Term Budgeting within the Congressional Budget Process: In Brief, June 28, 2019

General Budgetary Projections for the Upcoming 10-Year Period

In addition to the information provided on the 10-year budgetary outlook under current law, CBO provides Congress with cost estimates of certain proposed legislation. The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 (the Budget Act) requires that the CBO provide an estimate for any bill reported from committee. These cost estimates provide information on how the legislation would affect spending, revenues, and the deficit over the next 10 years relative to the baseline.

General Budgetary Projections for the Upcoming Decades

Each year, CBO provides Congress with its Long-Term Budget Outlook, which shows the effects of demographic trends, economic developments, and rising health care costs on federal spending, revenues, and deficits over the next 30 years. The report also shows the long-term budgetary and economic effects of some alternative policies.

In addition, in its cost estimates, CBO is required to note whether the underlying legislation would increase deficits in future decades. To assist the Senate in complying with its “long-term deficit rule” (described below), CBO notes whether the legislation would increase on-budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning with 2030.

OMB provides long-term projections in the President’s annual budget request in a section titled, “Long Term Budget Outlook.” These projections recently spanned a 25-year period and include projections under different fiscal scenarios.

The Government Accountability Office also provides information and interactive tools on projected spending, revenue, deficits, and debt over the next 70 years.

Additional Rules and Points of Order

[...], in the Senate, a rule exists that is often referred to as the “long-term deficit point of order.” It prohibits the consideration of legislation that would cause a net increase in deficits of more than $5 billion in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning after the upcoming 10 years.

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