What about the federal budget?

Lisa Cirincione, Joining Vision and Action

Will the federal grant programs that support our organization’s critical safety net projects be included in President Donald Trump’s budget? That’s the multi-trillion dollar question that JVA is very concerned about. As background, the U.S. spent $4 trillion dollars last year, and about $2.5 trillion of that was used for mandatory spending for entitlement programs, e.g., Social Security and Medicare. Neither President Trump nor Congress can change that, nor have they expressed any desire to cut those programs. The remaining discretionary funding is where the fight will be. Discretionary funding includes military spending (nearly half of all available discretionary dollars), Head Start, programs for Veterans, education programs and programs to maintain the nation’s security, among others.

We know that President Trump will craft a budget that promotes his top priorities. What we can tell from his executive orders is that spending to increase immigration enforcement and to build a wall along the country’s southern border is likely. Executive Order 13768 authorizes hiring an additional 10,000 immigration officers and it is also expected that 100,000 National Guard members will begin serving as immigration enforcement. While President Trump campaigned on the promise of balancing the budget, he appears to be changing his mind. On January 26, President Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity: “So a balanced budget is fine, but sometimes you have to fuel the well in order to really get the economy going. And we have to take care of our military. Our military is more important to me than a balanced budget.”

So, will he feel compelled to cut spending from other departments to make sure the military gets the money it needs?

Education experts are concerned there will be an overall reduction in the U.S. Department of Education’s spending, which Rep Tom Cole (R-OK), the leader of the House’s appropriation subcommittee that funds the Education Department confirmed, “may be more likely than not.” Erik Fatemi, a vice president at Cornerstone Government Affairs and a former Democratic staffer on the Senate appropriations subcommittee that handles education, predicts that formula programs will replace competitive grant programs.

As I shared with you in a previous blog (Concerning Changes are Already Afoot), the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities are expected to be eliminated completely, but their impact on the federal spending is negligible, so it appears to be a personal interest to cut them out of the budget rather than one aimed at balanced budgeting. As of the time of this writing, two more departments are at risk of being cut: the Legal Services Corporation and the Corporation for National and Community Service (AmeriCorps).

When will we see President Trump’s proposed budget?

The continuing resolution that keeps the federal government operating will end April 28. After that, either Congress will pass an omnibus bill that includes the FY 2017 appropriations bills and is ready for President Trump’s signature, or a new continuing resolution will be passed to fund the federal government through September 30, 2017. Given the steps that have to happen, a continuing resolution is likely.

Most analysts expect that President Trump will send his budget to Congress in late April or May. After that, budget committees in both the House and the Senate will get to work on their budget resolutions. Then, the appropriation committees in both houses will work to pass their appropriation bills to fund their government sector. After that, both houses must pass an agreed-upon budget and send it to the president for his signature—all before April 28, when the current continuing resolution expires, or by September 30, when the new fiscal year begins and the old budget expires. The alternative is to pass another continuing resolution.

Another key issue for passing the budget will be debate on raising the debt limit—which is sure to be lively and will require sacrifices. Repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act and tax reform are significant priorities for the Trump administration and will likely cause other issues related to the budget to be delayed, e.g., an incentive package for infrastructure development.

So, while there are no certainties, I’m putting my money on another continuing resolution. Until then, keep practicing the weekly mindful moment tips that are in the JVA 411 and take care of yourselves during this anxious time.

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