Congress is back from Thanksgiving break and confronted with some significant choices, including passage of a tax bill that substantially reduces the corporate tax rate and eliminates some common individual tax deductions, like the property tax and the inheritance tax. From the outset, the goal has been to pass a tax cut bill – good or bad — before Congress breaks for the Christmas holiday. To do this House and Senate Republicans are moving at breakneck speed to get the bill to the president for his signature. This week the Senate will begin considering its version of the tax reform bill, which is wildly unpopular with the general public. The House passed its version two weeks ago, and if Senate Republican leaders have their way, their version will pass in the next week. This leaves just enough time to conference the two bills and create a single version that can… Read More Concerns Grow Over the Impacts of House and Senate Tax Bills
Now is the time to let your senators and representatives know that you oppose elimination of the SALT deduction and that they should vote against any tax proposal that would do this. Over the next weeks and months, Congress will be debating legislation to “reform” the nation’s tax system. That debate will focus on many things, including corporate taxes, inheritance tax, individual tax brackets, and charitable tax deductions, among others. But none of the debates may prove as important to states, counties, cities, and towns as the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, which allows individuals and households to deduct what they pay to states and localities in the form of income, property, and sales taxes from their federal returns. Both the House and Senate are prepared to eliminate some or all of the SALT deduction to make up for revenue losses resulting from proposed cuts to the corporate and… Read More Why the SALT Deduction Matters. Why You Should Save It.
It’s stuck because neither the House nor Senate has passed a budget plan that outlines spending for fiscal year (FY) 2018. Why is it stuck? Because the majorities in both chambers cannot agree on how much to spend on defense and non-defense programs. Moderate Republicans are concerned that a budget plan similar to the ones proposed by the president or the House speaker would make it very difficult for the House or Senate to maintain spending at current levels, let alone increase spending where consensus to increase spending existed. Conservative Republicans are pushing hard to substantially reduce spending for non-defense discretionary programs and substantially increase spending for defense discretionary programs, and want to break down the current spending caps that ensure that whatever gains or losses in spending occur are equally shared by defense and non-defense programs. What does this mean? It means that as we get closer to the… Read More The Federal Budget and Appropriations Process: in Limbo
On Tuesday, June 27, 2017, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor/H) held a hearing at which the current Labor secretary, R. Alexander Acosta, testified on the president’s budget and other matters. While the conversation often strayed in various directions, including worker safety, foreign workers, public safety, and worker layoffs, it ultimately returned to jobs, and the clear belief by most members of the subcommittee that putting Americans to work requires a robust and effective workforce development system. For members of the subcommittee it did not matter whether these unemployed or underemployed workers were coal miners from West Virginia, young black men from Chicago, or workers who lost their jobs because of outsourcing. Ultimately, the conversation always came back to the need for and the importance of jobs, job training and job placement programs. Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO) opened the hearing by bemoaning the… Read More Where Do Job Programs Stand in the Face of Potential Labor Department Cuts?
On Tuesday, May 23, the president introduced his first ever, full budget proposal: A New Foundation for American Greatness. If adopted into law, the budget would impose catastrophic cuts to non-defense discretionary programs (those most targeted to local programs), while dramatically increasing spending for defense-related programs. If you believe that the greatness of a nation is measured by the vitality of its communities and the well being of its citizens than this budget does not meet its goal as a new foundation for American greatness. Instead, it is a budget that will continue the “war” against communities, economically disadvantaged people, and programs that are important to local governments everywhere. Let’s begin with the big picture. If adopted, this budget would cut $54 billion from programs designed to meet human needs in fiscal year 2018, and $1.4 trillion over 10 years. These include transportation, workforce development, economic development programs, community and… Read More President’s FY18 “A New Foundation for American Greatness” Budget Not Great for Local Governments
As we approach Infrastructure Week (May 15 through 19) – a week of education and advocacy designed to draw attention to the importance of infrastructure to our nation’s economy, jobs, and communities – we should stop for a moment and ask why? Why must we have an Infrastructure Week? Shouldn’t the wealthiest nation on the planet have the best infrastructure in the world? We should, but sadly, we don’t. Of course, anyone: trying to get safe, clean water in Flint, Michigan, driving on the roads of many cities that are bursting with potholes, using mass transit in a city like Washington, DC where investment in the subway system is insufficient, and enjoying public parks in Kansas where the difference between what is spent and what is needed is believed to be quite large …knows that something is not right. But we also know in a more informed way from many… Read More Why Do We Need Infrastructure Week?
As if by magic, the House and Senate, early in the morning on Monday, May 1, came to an agreement on a $1.1 billion fiscal year (FY) omnibus appropriations bill that will fund the government through September 30, 2017. (NOTE: Specific funding amounts are included at the bottom of this blog.) The bill is expected to be adopted by Friday, May 5, when the short-term funding bill expires. If all goes as expected and the President is willing to sign the omnibus appropriations bill, the threat of a government shutdown will have again been averted. According to Bloomberg Government the omnibus appropriations bill ‘tracks with Democratic priorities and rejects most of Donald Trump’s wish list, including money to begin building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border,’ though it does increase military spending by $15 billion and border security by $1.5 billion. However, none of the additional border security funds can… Read More At Long Last… A FY 2017 Omnibus Appropriations Bill
On April 4, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies held a hearing, Examining Federal Support for Job Training Programs. Witnesses included University of Maryland School of Public Policy Professor and Atlantic Council Senior Fellow Douglas J. Besharov, Urban Institute Fellow Dr. Demetra Smith Nightingale, and Markle Foundation CEO and President Zoe Baird. Bi-Partisanship on Capitol Hill? What may have been most striking about the hearing was the comity members exhibited throughout, the positive nature of member statements and questions, and the balanced and thoughtful perspectives that were offered by the panelists. It appeared that the committee went out of its way to invite speakers who would paint an accurate, not politicized view of job training programs. During their brief presentations, speakers addressed a range of topics that reflected overall support for the program. Testimony on Job Training Douglas Besherov noted that the… Read More Federal Support for Job Training Programs
The budget process is complex and filled with arcane rules and complicated precedents. Over the past seven years, Congress has passed and the president has signed a number of so-called budget control acts designed to limit overall spending and reduce the deficit and the debt. As a result, the budgeting process became even more complicated. The Budget Environment Since the Budget Control Act of 2011, various budget control acts have placed caps on spending, meaning that Congress could appropriate no more than a specific dollar amount each year. And each year, Congress is supposed to appropriate a lesser amount than the year before – to the extent feasible. This is not always the case and sometimes Congress amends the law to allow for increases in spending. The trend, however, has been to spend less; so much less that since 2011 non-defense discretionary programs have been cut by 16 percent. These… Read More Budget Facts and Talking Points to Share with Congressional Leaders
Now is the time to take action. Now is the time to let Congress know that programs like the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), or the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program must not be cut. The president’s fiscal year 2018 budget, if adopted, would substantially reduce or eliminate programs important to regional councils. The upcoming congressional recess (Saturday, April 8 – Sunday, April 23) provides an excellent opportunity to meet with your congressional delegation and tell them how much the federal funds matter to cities and counties, and how difficult it would be if these programs were eliminated. Arrange meetings with your senators and representatives to educate them about your region, highlight your achievements, and show them how important federal funds are to the success of those programs. Provide them with concrete examples of the impact that potential cuts will… Read More Take Action! Tell Congress: Don’t Cut Non-Defense Discretionary Programs
I know. We all like block grants. They give us the flexibility we say we need to effectively implement programs, and they come with few strings attached. Such is the case for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG); youth, adult, and dislocated programs under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA); the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG); and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to name a few. In large part we are not wrong. All 50 states and thousands of localities need flexible funding to address local issues in ways that are not hamstrung by laws, rules, and regulations; and reflect state, region, and local needs. What we often don’t get is the connection between block grants and funding cuts, and the connection is very strong. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), “overall funding for block grants targeted on low- and moderate-income people—including… Read More The Problem with Block Grants
The President Proposes On March 16, the president offered his “skinny budget.” Nicknamed “skinny” by the White House, the March 16 budget was released to offer an overview of the budget the president will finally submit to Congress in late April. Unfortunately, this budget does not present a very pretty picture. If adopted it would decimate many federal programs that are critical to the ongoing activities of most regional councils. It would also decimate many federal programs that are critical to the health and well-being of lower income and poor Americans. Now, most of us are familiar with the programs proposed for elimination that have received wide coverage like Meals on Wheels, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Endowment for the Arts. We have also heard that the budget, if adopted, would do significant harm to a wide range of programs. But… Read More The President’s Skinny Budget: What’s It All About?
Data recently released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living (ACL) documents the continued increase in the number of older Americans. As of today, about one in every seven persons, or nearly 15 percent of the population, is an older American. Importantly: Those aged 65 and older increased by nearly ten million (a 30 percent increase) in the last decade—from 36.6 million in 2005 to 47.8 million in 2015; Those aged 85 and over are projected to triple from 6.3 million in 2015 to 14.6 million in 2040; Racial and ethnic minority populations have increased from 6.7 million in 2005 (18% of older adults) to 10.6 million in 2015 (22% of older adults); The number of Americans aged 45-64 who will reach 65 over the next two decades has increased by 15 percent; and The average life expectancy for those reaching 65 has increased… Read More America’s Seniors: How Many There Are, Who They Are, and Why Budget Cuts Would Harm Them
To say that things are a mess on Capitol Hill around the budget and appropriations process may be an understatement. Here are six reasons for the mess: Earlier this year congressional leaders committed to completing the appropriations process for fiscal year 2017 by April 28th, the date on which the current continuing resolution (CR) expires. However, senators from both parties are now expressing concern that the appropriations process is so far behind schedule that they may need to adopt another temporary funding bill in the form of a CR, something they are loathe to do. Democrats, who are deeply concerned that the president will demand that the April funding bill includes money for “the wall” between Mexico and the United States, have indicated that they are prepared to prevent such a funding bill from passing Congress, thereby shutting down the government. The ramifications of a shutdown can only be conjectured.… Read More A Budget Mess
On Thursday, March 9, the Washington Post reported that the Trump administration is planning to eliminate all funding for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). In response to the Post’s requests for clarification, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) said the budget document is still a work in progress. According to the Post, the budget document the newspaper obtained “appears to be part of a back-and-forth with federal budget officials,” though the Post also stated that it is “unclear whether the proposed cuts will be included in the president’s final budget proposal,” which is scheduled to be released next week. The proposed cut comes as a major surprise for at least three important reasons: First, Mr. Trump, throughout his campaign, spoke of the need to invest in America’s “inner cities,” and committed to spending $100 billion over eight years to address “inner city” problems.… Read More Is the Community Development Block Grant on the Chopping Block?
As the Senate and House move to finalize fiscal year (FY) 2017 funding for the federal government, it is becoming increasingly clear that three obstacles – two pieces of legislation and an on-going congressional investigation – stand in the way of a rapid and conclusive FY2017 funding bill. The current continuing resolution (CR) expires on April 28, at which point a new CR or other funding bill must be passed to avoid a government shutdown. While April 28 may seem like a long way off and plenty of time for Congress to complete the appropriations process, the reality is that Congress will only be in session for 26 legislative days before the CR expires and funding for the federal government runs out. Additionally, most of the work has to be completed in March because Congress will recess for two weeks in April for the Easter and Passover holidays. As if… Read More Budget and Appropriations: Where Do We Go From Here?