Budget 101: 3 Terms You Need to Know for Federal Budget Season

From the President to the House of Representatives, to the Senate, it seems everyone in government has a different idea on how to move forward with the federal budget process.

Wondering how all this will impact the planning community. We've got you covered.

APA's team in Washington, D.C., follows the twists and turns on a day-to-day (and sometimes hour-to-hour) basis. We track the impacts of potential changes on planning-related programs, work to ensure planners' perspectives are considered, and do our best to keep you informed.

Advocate for Key Programs

As the budget process moves forward, we'll be asking you to reach out to your elected officials. We may ask you to support a specific provision in the House Budget or oppose funding amount in a specific appropriations bill.

It may seem like we're asking you to advocate for the same programs over and over again. This is because there are many steps to the process, and we will likely need your help every step of the way.

Here are the budget planning terms that planning advocates need to know:

budget bills

Budgets are proposed blueprints for spending, and the President, House of Representatives, and Senate each put together different ones. Budgets are not binding and are not signed into law. Rather, they give guidance on actions policymakers need to take to increase or reduce spending.

Budgets also signal which programs will be important to each body when it comes down to end-game negotiations.

The guidance that comes out of the budget process takes two forms. First, it helps policymaking committees — the authorizers — figure out what programs need to be changed and/or eliminated to meet the budget's goals. Second, it tells the appropriations committees how much money will be allocated to the programs they oversee.

Authorizing Bills Establish Program Structure

The following is a breakdown of bill types:

authorizing bills

Authorizations: This type of bill allows programs to exist, structures how those programs will operate, and sometimes establishes spending minimums or maximums. Just because a program is authorized, however, that doesn't mean it has the money to do anything. That's where appropriations come into play.

appropriations bills

Appropriations: This type of bill provides the cold hard cash, and is put together by the 12 subcommittees of the Appropriations Committee. The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee (also known as THUD) is just one example.

As APA seeks to inform planners about protecting, changing, or eliminating a federal program, we may ask you to be engaged in three different parts of the process. We may ask you to contact your legislators about language in the budget bills, the authorizing bills, and the appropriations bills.

Top image: Printed copies of last year's federal budget.

About the Author
Stephanie Vance is the founder of Advocacy Associates.

February 28, 2017

By Stephanie Vance