Congress Passes $1.1 Trillion Spending Package
January 17th, 2014
Earlier this week, on a bipartisan vote of 359 to 67, the House passed HR 3547, an omnibus measure that finalizes spending levels for all federal programs in FY 2014, which runs through the end of September. The Senate quickly followed suit on a vote of 72 to 26, bringing to an end a prolonged budget battle that included a sixteen-day government shutdown as the fiscal year began last October 1. The $1.1 trillion package falls short of what was needed to fully restore cuts made in FY 2013 under the sequester, across the board decreases to most federal programs triggered by the failure of Congress and the Administration to agree on spending reductions and/or revenue increases sufficient to meet budget caps set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). However, HR 3547 provides discretionary funding above the $967 billion level previously slated for FY 2014 under the BCA, and also exceeds last year’s post-sequester level for discretionary spending, which was $988 billion.
Of particular interest to the CSU, the Department of Education would see an overall increase of $1.6 billion above last year’s sequester level. Student aid and pipeline programs fared relatively well. The Pell maximum grant amount for the coming academic year will increase by about $85 to an estimated $5,730 (subject to finalization by the Department of Education). The bill also requires the Department of Education to report on Pell Grant student enrollment and graduation by institution. Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and Work-Study saw funding restored to nearly FY 2012 levels, at $733.1 million and $974.7 million respectively, as did the TRIO and GEAR UP programs, slated to receive $838.3 million and $301.6 million. Programs for minority-serving institutions saw partial restorations, including $95.2 million for Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), $8.8 million for Promoting Postbaccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans (PPOHA), and $3.06 million for Strengthening Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISI). Teacher Quality Partnership grants were flat funded at the FY 2013 sequester level of $40.6 million. The Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) saw its budget grow from $3.3 million to an FY 2014 level of $79.4 million, which included $75 million in first-time funding for the administration’s new First in the World program, focused on innovation and completion.
CSU priority programs based in other agencies also received a boost compared with FY 2013 sequestered funding. For example, within the Department of Agriculture, funding for capacity building grants for Non-Land Grant Colleges of Agriculture (NLGCA) increased from $4.1 million to $4.5 million, and Education Grants for Hispanic-Serving Institutions regained their FY 2012 funding level of $9.2 million. Grants for Hispanic-Serving Agricultural Colleges and Universities (HSACUs), as in previous years, were not funded. Within the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program was funded at a level of $45.6 million, fully restoring sequester cuts, and the Robert T. Noyce Scholarship program was reportedly funded at $60.9 million. Both were at funded at the level put forward by the administration and requested by the CSU.
The budgeting process for FY 2015 is off to a better start; in December, the Congress agreed to a top line for the upcoming year that would again avoid the sequester and provide a modest increase over current levels. However, with the nation’s debt ceiling needing to be increased as early as the end of February, another contentious funding showdown could materialize.