Congress Still Working to Finalize Current Fiscal Year Spending

The conversation may have shifted this week to the upcoming fiscal year, but Congress is still struggling to deal with spending levels for the current fiscal year - FY 2018.

After a brief government shutdown early Friday morning, Congress approved a two-year budget deal and a continuing resolution that reopened the government. The budget deal will allow Congress to wrap up work on the current fiscal year 2018 and begin initial discussions over the upcoming 2019 fiscal year.

The budget deal package includes:

  • Continuing Resolution: extends government funding through Friday, March 23.
  • New budget caps for FY 2018 and FY 2019: the two-year agreement raises spending caps by $300 billion over two years. The deal does not honor parity between defense and non-defense spending changes. Non-defense spending is raised by:
    • FY 2018: $63 billion
    • FY 2019: $68 billion
  • Additional supplemental disaster relief funding: $89.3 billion for disaster relief for areas impacted by the hurricanes and wildfires of 2017. A full summary of the breakdown of funding is available from the Senate Appropriations Committee.
  • Debt ceiling suspension: Lifts the debt ceiling until March 2019.
  • Tax extenders: Continues some expiring tax cuts and credits.
  • Infrastructure: Provides an additional $20 billion over two years with the exact allocations to be determined through appropriations.
  • Flood Insurance: Extends the National Flood Insurance Program authorization.

Though the budget deal includes an increase in non-defense spending, there is no guarantee that additional funding will be allocated to programs that support good planning. APA will continue to be a strong voice in support of robust federal investments in planning.

Now that the spending cap for FY 2018 has been set, appropriators can get to work finalizing spending for the current fiscal year. At this point, the process basically starts over again.

The chairs of the Appropriations Committee will reallocate funding to all 12 appropriations bills, including the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) bill that includes funding for many programs critical to planners. Once the new 302(b) allocations are set, appropriators will work to finalize spending bills and assemble an omnibus spending package.

All this work needs to be completed in six weeks before the expiration of the current CR on March 23.

Unfortunately, this extended delay in finalizing federal spending has become common; the omnibus appropriations bill setting spending for FY 2017 wasn't approved until May, over seven months into the fiscal year.

Communities are hurt by the inability of Congress to finalize spending on time; funding for programs like the Community Development Block Grant program and the HOME Investment Partnerships program isn't allocated until a full-year bill is in place, keeping communities in budgetary limbo for months on end.

Top image: Bill Oxford/Getty Images.

About the Author
Tess Hembree is policy manager at Advocacy Associates.

February 13, 2018

By Tess Hembree