Congress’s fiscal year runs beginning every October 1, not January 1. It last synced with the calendar in 1842 — but a new bill in the House would bring that schedule back.
A fiscal year is a period of time used for accounting or finance purposes, which doesn’t necessarily line up with the start and end of the calendar year. Congress passes — or at least is supposed to pass — appropriations and funding to coincide with the fiscal year.
The government’s fiscal year did indeed line up with the calendar year for its first few decades of existence. However, in 1842 Congress moved it from January 1 to July 1. Then Congress moved it one more time in 1977, from July 1 to the current October 1. (The effect was formally enshrined into law in 1982, after several years of the practice having become de facto.)
What the bill does
The It’s About Time Act would amend the government’s fiscal year to coincide with the calendar year from January 1 through December 31, instead of the current October 1 through September 30.
The bill was introduced on March 7 by Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH10). It’s labelled H.R. 5211 in the House.
What supporters say
Supporters argue the bill sensibly aligns our government’s fiscal calendar with the rest of the calendar, helping national security in the process.
“There is no reason the fiscal year should start on October 1 other than Congress has previously said so,” lead sponsor Turner said in a press release. “This has done unbelievable damage to the Department of Defense because Congress clearly cannot manage to pass spending bills by our current deadlines. Changing the calendar year would save DoD three painful months of Congress failing to get its work done.”
What opponents say
To understand what opponents say, it helps to understand why the fiscal year was changed in the first place.
The intention was to allow current members of Congress to craft and vote on the federal budget. Because members of Congress are sworn in during January, keeping the country’s original January 1 fiscal year would mean the budget for the entire year would have been created and voted on by the previous Congress.
So the biggest concern among opponents is that this lack of accountability would return to federal appropriations once more.
Odds of passage
The bill has not yet attracted any House cosponsors. It awaits a potential vote in either the House Budget or Oversight and Government Reform Committees.