The budget window is the number of years to which the spending and revenue decisions in a budget resolution apply. Law requires that the budget resolution cover at least five years — the upcoming year, plus the next four years.
While a 10-year window is currently the standard, the number of years covered by budget resolutions has varied. In the 1970s, 1-year resolutions were the norm; in the 1980s, the budget window lengthened to 3 years. Beginning in the 1990s, budget resolutions have most frequently covered 5 years, but there have been one 6-year, one 7-year, and six 10-year budget resolutions. The 2016 and 2017 budget resolutions each covered 10 years.
Recently, there have been calls to lengthen the budget window to 20 years or longer. There are several arguments in favor of a longer budget window:
However, this potential change to the budget process also carries risks, and could be manipulated to avoid fiscal responsibility. For example, a longer budget window could be used to delay the fiscal discipline imposed by the Byrd Rule, which bars reconciliation legislation from including provisions that increase the deficit outside of the budget window.
More about other budget terms, rules, and processes: