Budget Resolutions Fund Programs Important to Cities
by Mike Wallace
Pledging to pass a Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Resolution after failing to do so for Fiscal Year 2007, both the House and Senate passed similar budget resolutions before beginning a spring recess.
Both budget resolutions would increase the funding available to the Appropriations Committee for issues important to cities such as block grants, housing programs and education.
The Senate Budget Resolution (S.Con.Res. 21) passed by a vote of 52-47 on March 23, followed by the House Budget Resolution (H.Con.Res. 99), which passed 216-210 on March 29. The two bills will now be sent to a conference committee to resolve their differences before returning to their respective chambers in identical form for final passage. The budget resolution does not require Presidential approval.
Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and House Budget Committee Chair John Spratt (D-S.C.) worked together to ensure similarity in the two bills to foster swift conference negotiations and ultimate passage.
The nearly $3 trillion budget resolution gives Congress guidelines for the year’s actions on spending and taxes, as well as provides the Appropriations Committee with a set amount of funding to designate to federal programs, called discretionary spending.
The House bill sets total FY2008 discretionary spending at $954.9 billion, 2 percent above the President’s recommendation, of which $145 billion is set aside for war costs. The Senate bill holds discretionary spending to $948.8 billion.
In a letter to Spratt, NLC thanked members of the House Budget Committee for delivering a FY2008 budget resolution recognizing programs of importance to local governments.
“Cities and towns are the heart of America’s economy, generating more than 90 percent of the nation’s economic output. The FY2008 Budget Resolution provides for modest funding increases in key areas for which local governments are primarily responsible, including community and economic development, law enforcement, and transportation infrastructure,” NLC wrote in the letter. “Moreover, the resolution strengthens the partnership between federal, state, and local governments by acting in a fiscally responsible manner to decrease the federal budget deficit and, ultimately, to balance the federal budget.”
Both budget resolutions would increase the funding available to the Appropriations Committee for issues important to cities.
Funding available for community and regional development, including the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, would significantly increase. Although ultimately decided by the Appropriations Committee, the budget resolutions greatly increase the likelihood for a modest increase to CDBG.
During debate, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) spoke in favor of an increase for community development funds, saying “The President’s budget proposed cutting Community Development Block Grants by 21 percent. This would have meant that California’s CDBG funding would be cut by almost $140 million from its 2006 funding level. This would be devastating.”
The budget resolutions reject the President’s proposed cuts to law enforcement and first responder grants. Instead, both resolutions assume greater funding for both the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program and the nearly eliminated Community Oriented Policing (COPS) program.
Potential funding for the COPS program was assisted by an amendment from Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) that added $1.15 billion for the program.
“This amendment reinstates the COPS Program,” Biden said. “I remind everyone, when the COPS program was functioning, violent crime in America reduced 8.5 percent a year for 7 years in a row. Now crime is rising again. In every one of our states it is up. Violent crime is up across the board.”
The amendment passed by a vote of 65-33.
Funding for education and training programs would increase above the Administration’s request. Moreover, both budget resolutions reject the President’s proposed cuts to the Community Service Block Grant and the Social Services Block Grant, while providing for increases to the Head Start program and job training and national service programs.
Low income programs, which include Section 8 housing, unemployment compensation, school lunch subsidies and the food stamp program, as well as others, would get a boost above the Administration’s recommendation.
Both resolutions would provide greater funding for discretionary transportation programs such as the Federal Highway and Transit Administrations, Amtrak and motor carrier and rail safety programs.
Furthermore, both resolutions would provide for full funding of programs authorized under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users transportation legislation.
Source: National League of Cities (www.nlc.org).