"CONTROLLABLE" OR "UNCONTROLLABLE" EXPENDITURES?
While all budget items could be said to be "controllable" in the long
run, that is not true within the time span involved in putting
together and enacting one year's budget.
-- Uncontrollable items, in the strict sense, are expenditures
required by prior contractual obligations. Interest on the public debt
is the prime example.
-- Many relatively uncontrollable items, in the United States often
referred to as "entitlement programs," involve payments the government
is obligated to pay to individuals as a result of the rules laid down
by Congress for some continuing program, such as Social Security,
medical care programs, veterans benefits, and unemployment insurance.
The costs of such programs can be changed over time by legislation
changing the way benefits are calculated. In the short run, however,
current recipients have in many cases come to depend on the current
level of benefits, and any reduction for current recipients is
regarded by many as amounting almost to a breach of contract, morally
if not legally. For this reason it is difficult to make quick
reductions in expenditures for "entitlements" programs.
-- Controllable budget items (also sometimes referred to as
"discretionary" spending programs) are those programs that live on
year to year by the grace of annual congressional appropriations .