In a refreshing moment of bipartisanship, the Congressional Budget Conference Committee unveiled their budget agreement last week, which was quickly approved by the House. The Senate is making progress toward a final vote on Wednesday. The deal sets spending levels for FY14 and FY15 and offers a partial replacement for sequestration during those years.
The agreement, brokered by committee Chairs Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), provides approximately $1.012 trillion in FY 2014 and $1.014 trillion in FY 2015. Those spending levels include a replacement for approximately 50% of required sequestration cuts in FY14 and 25% of sequestration cuts in FY15. This will translate into about $22.4 billion in additional funding for non-defense discretionary programs in FY 2014 and $9.07 billion for NDD programs in FY 2015. Though there is additional funding available for non-defense discretionary programs, there is no guarantee that any of that funding will be allocated to housing and community development programs.
In all, it is an $85 billion deal split evenly between defense and non-defense programs, offset primarily by an increase to airline ticket fees and larger contributions from federal employees to their pensions. This agreement marks a big compromise by both sides; Republicans pushing for reforms to entitlement programs were disappointed by the deal and Democrats hoping to generate additional revenue through tax reform and tax increases were also unsatisfied. Despite disappointments that the deal wasn’t more of a grand bargain, it does seem to be a palatable solution to both sides of the aisle.
The House voted to approve the measure 332-94, sending the bill to the Senate for final passage before the holidays. The Senate voted 67-33 to end debate on the budget and move it toward a final vote, which is expected to take place tomorrow.
Though the deal didn’t raise spending levels quite as high as the $1.058 trillion level that the Senate proposed and NAHRO supported, $1.012 trillion comes much closer to that level than many in Washington anticipated. Achieving this increase in spending is a huge win for NAHRO. Additionally, Rep. Ryan and Sen. Murray provided Congress with an incredible gift of a two year budget deal. This means that there is decent chance that regular order can return to the Appropriations process; since the House and Senate will be working off the same overall funding level for FY 2015, theoretically, their bills should be easier to pass and conference. As a result, because we won’t be lurching from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis, Congress might actually have the time to focus on other priorities beyond appropriations, such as tax reform or voucher reform.
The fight for FY 2014 and to protect housing and community development is not quite over, though. Despite the additional $22 billion in funding available this year, the House and Senate Appropriators now have to go back to the drawing board and re-work the spending allocations for each of the appropriations bills, including the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development bill. Keep in mind, just because NDD as a whole will receive an additional $22 billion in funding for the remainder of the fiscal year, there is no assurance that HUD will receive a single penny of that funding. Those decisions have not been made yet. Contact your members of Congress to urge them to support funding for THUD and housing and community development programs today.