Early Agreement Reached on Continued Government Funding
In an effort to avoid the usual brinksmanship over keeping the government running when current funding expires in September, Congress reached an agreement on the basic provisions of a long-term Continuing Resolution (CR) for fiscal year 2013 funding before heading home for the August district work period.
The agreement won’t be made official until Congress returns after Labor Day, but would extend funding for discretionary programs until the end of March, 2013—halfway through the fiscal year. The overall level of federal discretionary spending under the CR will be the amount agreed upon in last year’s Budget Control Act, $1.047 trillion. This early agreement on a long-term CR takes off the table the perennial specter of a government shut-down as Congress maneuvers on funding levels almost to the stroke of midnight.
In recent years, Congress hasn’t completed work on all the appropriations bills that fund discretionary programs by September 30, when the federal fiscal year ends. They must pass a CR to keep the government operating until agreement on spending levels for a host of programs—including many important to infants and toddlers—can be reached. The must-do nature of a CR opens an opportunity for Members of Congress to leverage policy or major funding changes under threat of a government shut-down.
Why did Congress reach an early agreement on keeping the government running, with none of the usual drama? One incentive was avoiding the usual scenario because it would play out right before the election. But later this year following the election, a lame duck Congress must also tackle two budgetary issues that are much bigger and less easily addressed. One issue is the across-the-board cuts, or sequester, on January 1, 2013, required by the Budget Control Act. These cuts will reduce discretionary spending by over a trillion dollars over 10 years and must be divided equally between defense and non-defense spending. The other big issue is the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts which would occur on that same day, meaning all individuals would be looking at higher taxes for the year. Deciding how to avert all or part of these two events will most likely provide drama enough.
Over the next few weeks, the Baby Policy Blog will help advocates sort out the decisions that will shape the country’s budgetary and deficit reduction policy and explain how those decisions could affect programs that support infant-toddler development. In the meantime, as advocates cross the paths of their elected representatives while they are in their home states and districts, a clear message should be conveyed: as a nation, we need to look to our future, reaching budget decisions that preserve and invest in programs that help all young children reach their potential.
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