What is budget day? Budget days are the annual deadline by which governments must submit their financial plans and programs to the statutory bodies responsible for approving them. Budget day is usually the third day of a fiscal year. It is also referred to as the budget day because, like Christmas, it is a day set apart to celebrate compliance with budgeting requirements. Unlike Christmas, however, budget day rarely sees the introduction of gifts.
Budget day is usually the last day of a government’s fiscal year, when the annual budget is approved for the following year. It usually only occurs in some nations of the world. In Canada, for example, the last budget is tabled in parliament during the fall of each year, with the Finance Minister having to respond within forty-five days. Since most budgets are tabled early in the year (the U.S. government also has a budget for the year beginning on July 1st), the tradition of what is budget day often gets lost along the way.
How do we celebrate this day? In many countries, a formal government celebration featuring the prime minister and his or her ministers takes place on the last day of the fiscal year. In Canada, similar events take place. They may be attended by members of parliament and other officials and may feature news announcements, commentaries from top economists, and perhaps a speech by the Governor General.
In the United States, however, budget day is not celebrated until May. The reason is that the President is unable to release his budget until after the end of the year. Although technically the President can submit a budget plan to Congress before the end of the fiscal year (that is, around the time when the budget is due to be published for public consumption), this authority is considered highly questionable by most Americans. For this reason, the tradition of what is budget day, at least in the United States, falls apart somewhat.
Instead of celebrating Budget Day, Americans often focus their attention on the annual threat of government shutdowns. As it turns out, the government actually spends more than it budgeted during the year. If the government had not overspent its allowances, many economists theorize, the economic standing of the country would likely be in far worse shape than it currently is. For this reason, there are very few Americans who think that government should spend money. Most simply do not believe that the government should even have a budget at all.
Is this the right attitude to have for a government spending organization? One would hope that an institution as massive and complicated as the U.S. government should spend more carefully how it spends its money. After all, if members of Congress and Administration officials continue to blindly follow budget guidelines despite widespread public disapproval, they will only set themselves up for future congressional oversight and possible congressional penalties. The end result could be the shuttering of the government for lack of funding. Although such an eventuality is highly unlikely, budget day does represent a day of budgetary truth for many Americans.
The other possibility that facing Americans on what is budget day is that they will decide that it is no longer worth spending the time and energy to follow all of the government’s budgetary rules. Although technically the rules might change, given the growth of our population, the government probably will not find it necessary to dramatically change course on its policies. In fact, given the growth of our population, a slower rate of government spending may be exactly what the American public needs.
As a consequence, if members of Congress and Administration officials want to enjoy what is budget day, rather than spending hours in committee, they will probably give up their seats in Congress and begin hiding behind the bushes. That, however, should not dampen the public’s excitement about what is budget day. In fact, the more members of Congress and Administration officials start hiding, the better the chances that we can get some meaningful budget action this year. The most likely scenario is that Congress passes a budget resolution that the President signs. Then all it takes is a handful of Senate Democrats to help the legislation through the House, and perhaps the President will be able to make good his promise to cut the budget.