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The President’s proposed budget for discretionary spending for 2018 landed with a crash as it includes dramatic cuts across agencies and departments as a way to pay for increases to the Pentagon. The proposal was released on Thursday, March16 and applies to the discretionary portion of federal spending with the rest to be published with all details in May.

The impetus for the budget is that the President is proposing a $54 billion increase for the Defense Department and paying for it by making dramatic cuts including severe cuts to human services.  In most instances the budget provides a top funding level and may provide some examples of cuts or eliminations and some examples of increases but the line by line actions will have to wait until the May release.  Regardless the proposed reductions are getting negative feedback from both parties.

For the Department of Health and Human Services it includes dramatic cuts by proposing that appropriated funding provided in 2016 be cut by $12 billion to $65 billion. In effect the proposal would be a 23% cut from last fully enacted 2016 totals or 18% from the current 2017 budget (which is still not finalized).

The HHS budget cuts single out health research through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reducing its popular and bipartisan total of $30 billion by nearly $6 billion. Congress is unlikely to go along with such a big cut and that would mean more cuts in other areas to reach the Administration goal. If a 23% cut were enacted along with the NIH reductions it would mean that key child welfare programs would be savaged, including reducing small items like Child Welfare Services (Title IV-B) to $ 207 million, Adoption-Kinship Incentive fund to $29 million and Education Vouchers for Youth in Foster Care to $33 million.  Five years ago Child Welfare Services was at $290 million, Adoption Incentives, focused just on adoptions and was at $43 million and Vouchers for Youth topped out in 2006 at $46 million.

The saving grace for advocates may be that unlike the debate over health care, the budget will require 60 votes to pass the Senate. That reassurance however may not be enough.  The bottom line is that a president’s budget will result in some of that administration’s priorities.  In other words, they may not get all or even most of these cuts but they are likely to accomplish some.  That leaves some undefended programs very vulnerable.

Once advocates digest the FY 2018 proposal there is a second factor hanging over the debate.  The 2017 budget is funded until the end of April 2017. Current funding is at levels negotiated above the budget caps with a reduction across the board of 2/10 of one percent during the CR.  The deal to raise some of the caps for just 2017 may not last.  In addition to 2018 increases for defense, the President is proposing a 2017 increase of $30 billion for the Pentagon and Homeland Security with some of it as a down payment on the wall between the US and Mexico.  He proposes that approximately $15 billion be paid for by cuts to the 2017 budget.

Other budget cut items raising concerns include the elimination of the 21st Century funding for afterschool programs housed in the Education Department.  CWLA has already signed onto a letter in support of the $1.2 billion in funds that goes to schools for afterschool activity.  Federal child care funding extends to age 14 and some of the 21st Century programs fills in some of the gaps for middle and high school students and can extend learning time.

The budget does maintain the $500 million in additional funding for opioid addiction.  The money had been adopted as part of last year’s Cures Act which paid for $500 million in funding in 2017 and 2018.

Left out of the budget proposal are all the mandatory/entitlement funds which equals about two thirds of the entire federal budget.  As a result there is no mention of the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) or Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance. That will be released along with all the detailed line by line requests in mid-May. That final Administration budget will include proposals on taxes and any changes to entitlements and mandatory programs.

 

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