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GOVT200 - State and Local Government- Chiano: Fiscal Impact and Budget for your Bill

Estimate the Cost of your Bill

Determining the cost of your legislation can be pretty tricky. These steps and tools may guide you to a realistic estimate of your proposal. The table below is just an example of how you might organize your information. 

Find similar programs that already exist

Conduct a web search by typing key words from your bill into an internet search engine like Google then answer the questions that follow. Find at least three similar government programs (either state or federal) that already exist. Can you find a recent budget for this program online? Can you contact this agency or program to ask what their current budget is?

Name of Program Federal/State/Local  Budget/ Amount/ Year Contact/Website

Based on your review of the information below, think about which department or program might be responsible for carrying out the provisions of your bill.

Fiscal Categories

Here are seven suggested categories for you to explore as you research the cost of your bill. You'll find a description and research suggestion to get you started on this process. 


  1. Equipment
    • For this category, think about any specific machinery or electronics that would be necessary to put your bill into action. For example, will the government need to purchase new computers or medical supplies with your legislation? Does it involve a project that uses heavy machinery? How much of this equipment will you need in order to have enough for those affected by your bill? 

    • Research Suggestion:  Determine the type of equipment needed and look up the cost of each piece of machinery/technology/medical instrument on-line.   Multiply the quantity needed by the cost.

  2. Marketing

    • All legislation must include marketing costs. Because bills that pass Congress have benefits and penalties associated with them, the government needs to inform the public. For example, if you are creating a penalty for driving without a seat belt, how will you let people know before your bill goes into effect?

    • Research Suggestion: A marketing campaign for a national audience costs a minimum of $1 Million. Think about how you will spread information to the States that are impacted by your bill. Will you send flyers? How many? How much do they cost to print? How much would it cost to run a 30 second ad on local television stations around the country? Use the Boston Magazine Media Kit to get a sense of the cost. 

  3. Labor

    • For this category, think about the people needed to make your bill a reality. Will the federal/state/local government hire new employees to help implement your bill? What types of employees will you need?  Will you need professionals, part-time students or volunteers?  .

    • Research Suggestion:  Determine how many people the federal government will need to hire around the country and multiply that by their estimated salaries.  You may also want to try the Salary Wizard tool at

  4. Energy

    • For this category, consider the extra energy costs of putting your bill into action. For example, will you need fuel to operate heavy machinery? Do you need some other form of power or energy resources for additional facilities or equipment in order to accomplish the goals in your bill?

    • Research Suggestion:  Research the price of the fuel that you will use and multiply that cost by the amount that you think the government will need to complete the job.

  5. Transportation

    • Do you need to purchase new vehicles in order to accomplish your goals? Do employees need to travel around the country to conduct seminars?

    • Research Suggestion:  Consider the types and quantity of vehicles you will need to purchase as well as the frequency of travel when estimating this cost

  6. Education

    • Remember that the passage of a new bill means that a lot of people will probably need special training to be able to enforce it.  Does your bill involve workshops or seminars around the country? Do you need to educate a pool of workers about the program before they begin managing it? Do people need to take college classes in order to implement your goals?

    • Research Suggestion:  Find out how much it costs to take a class at your local community college.

  7. Legal

    • You need to consider the potential legal costs associated with your bill, especially if it is possible that your bill could face a challenge to its constitutionality.  For example, in a California lawsuit over abortion (Bernardo v. Planned Parenthood), the legal costs incurred by just one side reached $130 thousand dollars.  This was a case heard in state court – had this been in federal court, the costs would have been much higher!  Though this was a case between two private parties and did not involve a government agency, costs involving the government are comparable.  It is especially likely that bills on the following topics could face legal challenges: civil liberties, civil rights, gun control, reproductive and personal rights, and values and American society.

    • Research Suggestion:  According to, the median annual salary for an associate general counsel (a high ranking lawyer) in Washington, DC, is $240,540.  How much do others in the legal field, such as lawyers and paralegals, earn?  Given that a court case can take years to resolve and involve a team of lawyers, estimate the potential cost of defending your bill

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