Scoring (also called scorekeeping) is the process of measuring the budgetary effects of legislation and assessing its impact on a budget plan—the budget resolution or statutory budget caps.
More specifically, scorekeeping rules are applied to determine whether appropriations, direct spending, or revenue legislation will trigger points of order under the 1974 Budget Act or a sequestration order to enforce the statutory spending caps.
By statute, the principal scorekeepers for Congress are the House and Senate Budget Committees, although they rely in nearly all cases on spending estimates by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and revenue estimates by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT).
CBO scoring is relevant to enforcement of Budget Act points of order during the legislative process, while OMB scoring determines whether automatic sequestration (reduction) of spending is required.
General Scorekeeping Guidelines:
- OMB: Circular A-11, Section 21, Overview of Scoring Legislation
- OMB: Circular A-11, Appendix A – Scorekeeping Guidelines
- CRS: Baselines and Scorekeeping in the Federal Budget Process
- Urban: Federal Budget Rules – How the Basics Apply to Low-Income Programs
The Complexity of Appropriating for Leases:
Budget scorekeeping rules mandated by the 1990 Budget Reconciliation Act routinely interfere with leasing arrangements. OMB Circular A-11, Appendix B, which implements the 1990 Act, sets forth specific requirements for Federal leases of capital assets – and permits agencies to budget their lease costs annually only if the lease can qualify as an “operating lease.”
If instead, the lease is a “capital lease,” the scoring rule requires budget authority (BA) to be appropriated up-front in the amount of the “the Government’s total estimated legal obligations over the life of the contract” (although the outlays are scored annually at the time of disbursement). OMB Circular A-11, App-B, p. 2.
- OMB: Circular A-11, Appendix B – Budgetary Treatment of Lease-Purchases and Leases of Capital Assets
- CBO Testimony on the Lease-Purchase Scorekeeping Rule
- GSA: Determination of Operating or Capital Lease Classification for Budget Scoring
- GAO: Capital Financing – Alternative Approaches to Budgeting for Federal Real Property
- GAO: Budget Scoring Affects Some Lease Terms
- Brookings: Reforming Federal Property Procurement – The Case for Sensible Scoring