Budget Surpluses: Experiences of Other Nations and Implications for the United States.
GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE WASHINGTON DC ACCOUNTING AND INFORMATION MANAGEMENT DIV
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In fiscal year 1998, the United States achieved a unified budget surplus for the first time in nearly 30 years. Budget surpluses represent both the success of past deficit reduction efforts and an opportunity to address pressing needs. With the arrival of surpluses there has been much debate about whether surpluses should be maintained and how they should be used. While balancing the budget has been the clear and generally accepted fiscal goal for many years in the United States, there is not yet agreement on the appropriate fiscal policy during a period of budget surpluses. To help inform the current budget debate, GAO was asked to look at other countries with recent experience with budget surpluses. During the 1980s and 1990s, several advanced democracies achieved budget surpluses. Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Lautenberg, subsequently joined by Chairman Domenici, asked that GAO examine the experiences of six nations that have achieved budget surpluses-Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Specifically, GAO was asked to determine 1 how they achieved budget surpluses and what their fiscal policies were during periods of surplus, 2 how they addressed long-term budgetary pressures, and 3 how they adapted their budget process during a period of surplus. GAO was also asked to identify lessons these nations learned from their experiences with budget surpluses that might be applicable to the United States.
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