The new Budget Director Mulvaney, when and if he gets confirmed will be tasked with two key decisions that could create enormous budget pressure on children’s programs. Currently 2017 funding runs out at the end of April. We are operating on flat funding through that CR. Somewhere between the time decisions are made on funding for the rest of 2017 and constructing a new budget for 2018 Congress is likely to take up for a supplemental budget for the Defense Department and possibly for a down payment on the wall between the United States and Mexico.
Current funding for 2017 is based on a budget cap of $518 billion for “non-defense discretionary” spending. That is the same funding as 2016. The problem, if no increases are allowed, that cap on non-defense discretionary spending will already have to absorb a $3 billion increase in veterans spending already inserted by Congress. Veterans spending is not considered part of the defense budget. In addition, the Defense Department is seeking anywhere from $20 billion to as high as $40 billion in supplemental funding. A down-payment on the wall could range from $12 billion to $15 billion. The question is, will this funding be offset? That is—cut from other parts of the discretionary budget. Most of the human services funding, including child welfare, over the past five years has been frozen or reduced. (CAPTA, CWS, PSSF, Adoption Opportunities, etc.)
Next up for the budget director is a budget for FY 2018. Under the current budget caps, domestic discretionary spending is to take an additional cut of $3 billion below current funding—in addition to absorbing veteran funding increases. Next year too, there will be a great deal of pressure to increase defense spending, this time the figures range anywhere from $30 billion to as high as $100 billion. All the defense increases will confront the Congress with what to do about the budget caps. The caps are in place into 2021. Eliminate them, raise them or eliminate the current requirement that any increase in spending must be equal between the defense budget and the non-defense spending. Those are the choices. With Mulvaney unlikely to get an o.k. this week a budget could come out as late as May.