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News & Press: WIPP Leadership Columns

The Confusion Surrounding the Federal Budget Debate

Thursday, April 6, 2017  
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By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

Recently, WIPP’s President Jane Campbell gave a webinar on the federal budget process, which attempted to explain all of the moving parts in the federal budget, including what it means to businesses and the organizations they support. Below I have laid out the steps in the process as simply as possible.   

Immediate action item

1.  The funding for Fiscal Year(FY)17 ends on April 28, 2017, therefore Congress must act on or before that date to keep funding the government for the remainder of FY17, which ends on September 30, 2017.  FY17 has been funded through a Continuing Resolution (CR), meaning that FY17 has been funded at FY16 levels.  While under a CR, federal agencies cannot award grants or initiate new program starts.

            Funding Options for FY17.

             (a) A Continuing Resolution until the Fiscal Year ends or

(b) an “omnibus” appropriations bill to fund the rest of the year. Omnibus simply means putting the 10 remaining agency appropriations into one big bill. The Defense Department and the Veterans Affairs Department bill were signed into law, so there are 10 agencies remaining.

The President can request supplemental Appropriations in the current fiscal year, which is exactly what President Trump did in March.  He requested $30 billion more for FY17 funding for defense and homeland security.  Congress will decide whether or not to honor his request, which would be rolled into the FY17 Omnibus bill.        

Longer Term action items

1.  Funding for FY18--- which starts October 1, 2017.  The House Appropriations Committee is responsible for starting the funding process, and revenue bills have to start in the House.  The Committee is just now starting hearings on funding programs, and Subcommittees of this Committee have responsibility for certain federal agencies.  For example, the Treasury and SBA are funded by the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee.  The three-part process is as follows: Subcommittees act first, the full Appropriations Committee considers, and then the bills go to the House floor for action.

2.  Raising the debt ceiling will be required sometime this fall.  Why does that matter?  If it is not raised, the federal government defaults on its debt, which would send ripples through the global economy.

3The FY18 Budget Resolution provides a high-level set of budget numbers that appropriators work against.  Much like your own budget, the federal budget is anticipated spending, not what is actually spent (appropriations).   Ideally, the Congress should agree on a resolution before it does appropriations, but that does not seem likely.

The interplay between the President’s proposed budget for FY18 (yes, there will be two—(1) a blueprint released in March and (2) a more detailed budget in May) and appropriations is worth an explanation. What we all learned in civics class, “the President proposes and the Congress appropriates,” sets the tone.  The media frequently forgets to include this fact in their coverage of the budget, suggesting that the President has the sole power to determine the budget. In fact, he does not.  He can only use his bully pulpit to ask for funding priorities.  Generally speaking, the Congress, especially if it is from the same party as the President, tries to accommodate his requests. Side noteI say “he” because there has never been a “she.”

In his proposed budget, President Trump suggested cutting many programs that have powerful constituencies, causing widespread alarm among recipients of these programs.  While this is certainly a wake-up call for many, the real alarm bells should be directed at the Appropriators.

Which leads me to WIPP’s strategy with respect to FY18 funding of programs that support women entrepreneurs. We have concentrated on the appropriators and will continue to urge support.  Members on the House Appropriations Subcommittees are the first line of defense and later, the full Appropriations Committee.  After finishing with the House, we will turn our attention to the Senate Appropriations Committee.  The last stop is floor action.

All told, the season to advocate on behalf of appropriations started in March, and will continue through the rest of the year.  The Congress will continue to engage constituents with respect to budget decisions.  On April 7, Congress will begin a two-week recess.  Legislators will be in their home districts and conducting meetings. Echoing WIPP’s funding requests would be much appreciated. If you are a government contractor, consider voicing the need for stability in the federal budget.  If you support local nonprofit organizations, take a look at federal support dollars and speak up.

The time is now.


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