NARC Federal Budget Call Recap: Where We Are Now and What to Expect in the Fall

Senators and representatives may be home for recess, but the issues they left in Washington will be here when they return on September 5. Not only will the issues be here, but the urgency to address them will have increased significantly. Top issues that await them include: the adoption of a federal budget, 12 appropriations bills, legislation to raise the debt ceiling, and tax reform. It is also possible that health care legislation may come up for consideration again. This is why NARC felt it was important to host a conference call last Wednesday on the current status of the federal budget with Deborah Cox, legislative director at the National Association of Counties (NACo); Michael Wallace, program director of federal advocacy at the National League of Cities (NLC); and NARC staff. We wanted to provide you, our members, with an update on where these urgent issues stand so that you… Read More NARC Federal Budget Call Recap: Where We Are Now and What to Expect in the Fall

The Federal Budget and Appropriations Process: in Limbo

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

President’s FY18 “A New Foundation for American Greatness” Budget Not Great for Local Governments

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

Why Do We Need Infrastructure Week?

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?

At Long Last… A FY 2017 Omnibus Appropriations Bill

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

Want America to Be ‘Great’ Again? Pay For It – By Pat Jones, IBTTA

The following article, Want America to be Great Again? Pay for It, by Pat Jones was originally published as a guest editorial in the April 18 issue of Time magazine. Pat Jones is the CEO of the International Bridge, Tunnel, and Turnpike Association (IBTTA), an organization that represents tolling agencies from around the nation and world. His organization has been at the forefront of advocating for increased resources to maintain our roads, bridges and tunnels, and other infrastructure. This blog argues for a coherent, thoughtful transportation policy that provides the necessary funds to ensure that America’s roads and bridges, and other infrastructure, are properly maintained. Most recently, Mr. Jones was a general session speaker at NARC’s  2017 National Conference of Regions. Elon Musk recently announced that he is fed up with traffic in Los Angeles and will soon begin boring a tunnel under the city to relieve congestion. As a billionaire and innovator, Musk… Read More Want America to Be ‘Great’ Again? Pay For It – By Pat Jones, IBTTA

Federal Support for Job Training Programs

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

Budget Facts and Talking Points to Share with Congressional Leaders

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

Take Action! Tell Congress: Don’t Cut Non-Defense Discretionary Programs

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

The Problem with Block Grants

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

Whispers of a Shutdown

Washington’s attention is turning to the April 28 deadline for fiscal year (FY) 2017 spending bills. Congress has barely a month to either finish its work on outstanding appropriations bills, or pass another continuing resolution (CR). The timeline is particularly challenging due to a two-week Congressional recess in April. Just three in-session weeks are available between now and the CR’s expiration. At least two issues complicate the completion or extension of this year’s spending bills. Some in Washington are starting to whisper the dreaded “s” word (shutdown). 1) Trump Administration changes to funding levels. The CR is often an extension of the previous year’s funding levels. The Trump administration, however, has proposed significant increases for military and military-related spending. This would force cuts of as much as $18 billion in the discretionary budget. These cuts would come from the remaining few months of the fiscal year, not the entire year, making the… Read More Whispers of a Shutdown