28 March 2013
AGU Science Policy Alert 13-15
A previous version of this alert had an error. The alert has been corrected to read “Overall, the Senate plan aims to lower the deficit from the projected $6.9 trillion in 2023 to $5.2 trillion.” We apologize for this error.
Continuing Resolution Extended through FY2013
The “Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013”, H.R. 933, passed first in the Senate on 20 March and then in the House on 21 March, was signed by the President on 26 March. The previous continuing resolution was initially enacted in September 2012 when Congress failed to pass a budget for FY2013 and extended FY2012 funding levels into the next fiscal year. That resolution was set to expire today, 27 March 2013 and, if the new continuing resolution had not passed, would have resulted in a government shutdown. To prevent this, Congress rushed a vote last week before convening for a two-week recess (25 March- 5 April), to extend the continuing resolution through 30 September, the end of FY2013.
H.R.933 did not overturn sequestration, instead locking in the $85 billion in automatic cuts until the end of FY2013, but it did alter certain FY2012 appropriations. For many federal agencies it gives more detailed appropriations, which alter the effects of sequestration’s five percent cuts within federal agency programs.
Of particular interest to the geosciences are changes within program funding at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Department of Energy (DOE), National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Thanks to the Superstorm Sandy relief billand the continuing resolution, NOAA has an overall budget above that of FY2012 and has greater spending flexibility within programs related to hurricane tracking and forecasting. However, particular programs within NOAA, such as the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research and the National Marine Fisheries Service, will still suffer reduced budgets. Due to appropriations modifications in the continuing resolution for DOE, the National Nuclear Security Administration will only see a 1.1% drop from FY2012 levels, while the Office of Science will experience a 7.7% drop from FY2012 levels. The NSF received an increase in research and development funds that leaves its final funding cuts after sequestration at only 2.9%. Within NASA, Science and Space Technology offices received increased funding, lessening the sequester impact, but most other programs saw decreases or no change in funding under the continuing resolution. Funding levels for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) were not modified in the continuing resolution, and so the agency will continue at its current level of funding, including the sequester cuts, through FY13.
FY2014 Budget Proposals: Democratic Senate v. Republican House
This past week the House and Senate passed on 21 March and 23 March, respectively, two competing budget proposals for FY2014. These proposals are planning documents that leave actual changes in revenues and spending for later appropriations legislation, instead providing broad visions of national goals and priorities. Coming from two different chambers led by two different political parties, the proposals differ drastically in how they plan to address the staggering national debt and to serve the American people. The Senate plan, passed in the Democrat-controlled Senate, looks to slowly cut the deficit through increased revenue from both increased taxes and investments in the economy while the House plan, passed in the Republican-controlled House, relies on cuts and reduced spending to lower the deficit. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Senate Budget Committee Chair, said the aim of their budget is to “build from the middle out, not the top down” while Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), House Budget Committee Chair, has said that the U.S. must stop spending money we don’t have and that the House plan is “an exit ramp from the current mess—and an entry ramp to a better future.”
Overall, the Senate plan aims to lower the deficit from the projected $6.9 trillion in 2023 to $5.2 trillion. To achieve this, the plan eliminates sequestration in favor of targeted cuts such as $493 billion reductions in healthcare and domestic program expenses and $240 billion in reductions in military spending. In terms of new spending it proposes $100 billion in stimulus funding for job training and infrastructure projects to help stimulate job growth and economic prosperity. Lastly it plans to create $975 billion in new revenue by closing tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthy.
In contrast, the House proposal takes a more austere approach that aims to reduce the deficit to $1.2 trillion over the next decade. It would leave the $1 trillion sequestration in effect, but redistribute reductions in military spending to cuts to discretionary programs, such as NASA or NSF. The plan would not raise taxes, but rather generate revenue by repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and cutting $885 billion from Medicaid and other safety net programs, $962 billion from mandatory spending, and $249 billion from discretionary programs.
Together with the President’s budget (to be released in April), the two proposals will serve as a basis for future negotiations between the parties. Let your Senators and Representative know what you think of the budget plans and continuing resolution now, and ask them to support scientific research in the FY2014 appropriations process.