A Blueprint for Balance: A Federal Budget for 2017

Report Budget and Spending

A Blueprint for Balance: A Federal Budget for 2017

February 23, 2016 2 min read Download Report
The Heritage Foundation

The Blueprint for Balance provides detailed recommendations for the annual congressional budget. Congress needs to drive down spending – including through reform of entitlement programs – to a balanced budget, while maintaining a strong national defense, and without raising taxes. 

While Congress cannot solve everything at once, it can and must take opportunities through the annual budget and appropriations process to make a down payment of putting the government’s finances back in order. They can do this by immediately reducing discretionary spending and taking meaningful steps to reduce mandatory spending by reforming those programs.

The Blueprint:

  • Balances the budget while reducing taxes. The Blueprint reaches primary balance (i.e., without including interest of the debt) within the first year and eliminates deficits by 2023 without counting any benefits from growing the economy (that would result in balance even sooner). The budget stays in surplus while allowing the nation to begin reducing the national debt. It does this while completely eliminating over $1.3 trillion in the tax revenues included in Obamacare.
  • Reforms Entitlement Programs. Entitlement spending is growing on autopilot, consuming more and more of the federal budget each year. Tens of trillions in unfunded obligations are threatening younger generations with massive tax increases and undue burdens of debt. This blueprint would: repeal Obamacare; modernize Medicare by transitioning to a premium-support system and making key reforms to meet  demographic, fiscal, and structural challenges;  cap the federal allotment for Medicaid and give states greater flexibility in designing benefits and administering the program;  and make common sense reforms to Social Security to ensure seniors are protected from poverty in retirement while accounting for increased life expectancy and reducing the growth in benefits.
  • Reduces the National Debt. The Blueprint would reduce debt held by the public by $9.3 trillion over the decade, when compared to current Congressional Budget Office projections. As a percentage of the economy, debt would fall from a projected 75.6% in 2016 to a more sustainable rate of 52.5% in 2026, and continue falling from there.
  • Responsibly Brings Spending Under Control. The federal government cannot continue to spend at a rate faster than the economy grows. Over the next decade, the Heritage budget would reduce the growth in spending to an average rate of 1.7% annually, well below the nearly 5% annual growth rate under CBO’s baseline projection.
  • Reigns in Interest Spending. Net interest spending is projected to quadruple over the next decade if no action is taken. By 2024 the nation would be spending more on interest payments on the debt than on national defense. By stabilizing the debt, this budget reins in the cost of servicing the debt, freeing up resources for other national priorities.
  • Fully Funds National Defense. The Blueprint prioritizes national defense capabilities by moving resources from less critical domestic programs to funding the federal government’s core constitutional role fully. With continued and rising tensions across all corners of the globe, fully funding national defense must be a top priority.
  • Provides the Framework for Budget Process Reform. The Blueprint takes immediate steps towards implementing change in the budget process. These include: enacting a statutory spending cap enforced by sequestration to curb excessive spending growth; moving  towards a balanced budget amendment to constrain future attempts at circumventing budget caps; eliminating the use of changes in mandatory programs (CHIMPs) as a tool to evade discretionary spending limits; stopping spending on unauthorized programs and reducing spending for those programs that Congress reauthorizes; putting government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) on budget to accurately account for the budgetary impacts and risks of these programs; and implementing use fair-value accounting to more accurately report the risks Congress assumes and the subsidies it provides through federal credit programs, like student loans.


The Heritage Foundation