Capitol to Capitol
An Information Service of NCSL's Standing Committees

Volume 17   Issue 36 - December 3, 2010


STATES GAIN WELFARE PROGRAM EXTENSION

 This week Congress gave final approval to legislation, H.R. 4783, that includes a NCSL-sought extension of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant through Sept. 30, 2011. The legislation effectively extends the block grant, TANF supplemental grants, fatherhood and health marriage promotion programs, and the Child Care and Development Fund entitlement. H.R. 4783 does not extend a federal matching of state use of federal child support incentive payments or the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund created in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The TANF block grant is funded at the same level as last year, or in other words, is level-funded. However, the TANF supplemental grants are funded only through June 30, with a pot of money that must also pay for any regular contingency fund expenditures for the last three months of 2010. States must comply with new reporting requirements or face penalties. The president is expected to sign H.R. 4783. NCSL thanks state legislators for expressing the need for this extension to their congressional delegations. (NCSL staff contacts: Sheri Steisel, Emily Wengrovius)


STATES GET TWO MORE WEEKS OF FEDERAL FUNDING CERTAINTY

Yesterday, the Senate gave unanimous approval to H.J.Res 101, which extends appropriations for state-federal and other programs through Dec. 18, 2010, at FY 2010 spending levels. The House approved the same measure 239-178 earlier in the week, and President Obama is expected to sign this second continuing resolution (CR) for FY 2011. Three scenarios for further action are on the table: 1) Congress could pass a CR taking them into early 2011; 2) Congress could pass a CR through the end of the fiscal year (Sept. 30, 2011); 3) Senate appropriators could work up an omnibus appropriations package that would have to clear both houses over the next two weeks. The first and second option would likely lead to discussion about cutting FY 2011 funding levels back to what they were in FY 2008, which is about $100 billion less. Stay tuned. This is all caught up in end-of-session tax and fiscal policy matters. (NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley)


CHILD NUTRITION LEGISLATION ON WAY TO PRESIDENT

With a bipartisan vote of 264-157 yesterday, the House completed action on Senate-passed legislation reauthorizing child nutrition programs. NCSL had urged reauthorization before the close of the 111th Congress. H.R. 3307 raises the school lunch reimbursement by six cents per lunch, establishes new nutrition standards for food and beverages sold on school property, expands after-school food programs, and expedites enrollment in school meal programs. Costs for the program are offset by reducing future food stamp benefit increases. H.R. 3307 is on its way to the president’s desk. A separate measure, H.R. 6469, also passed yesterday that requires states, without funding, to conduct criminal background checks of anyone who provides child care at schools or summer camps that receive funding from the Child and Adult Care Food Program.  H.R. 6469 now heads toward an uncertain fate in the Senate, State lawmakers should examine the potential costs of this unfunded requirement. NCSL thanks state legislators for expressing the need to complete this reauthorization. (NCSL staff contacts: Lee Posey, Sheri Steisel)


NATIONAL DEFICIT COMMISSION ISSUES FINAL REPORT

On Dec. 1, 2010, the 18-member National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform issued its final report. Although it failed to get the required support of 14 of 18 members, it did secure a bipartisan majority and its recommendations will likely surface in many forms next year. The final report mirrors a similar package unveiled two weeks ago by the commission’s co-chairs, Erskine Bowles and former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson. It calls for $2 trillion in spending reductions through 2020 and uses “zero-based planning” to trim tax expenditures in order to lower individual and corporate tax rates. It trims federal assistance for various aspects of Medicaid, raises the federal gas tax 15 cents, increases the Social Security retirement age and embraces a variety of procedural tools that would enforce spending cap provisions. The full report is available at http://www.fiscalcommission.gov/sites/fiscalcommission.gov/files/documents/TheMomentofTruth12_1_2010.pdf.  The report’s contents will be one of the items discussed at next week’s meeting of NCSL’s Deficit Reduction Task Force at the Fall Forum in Phoenix, Dec. 8 - 10 (NCSL staff contacts: Jeff Hurley, Michael Bird).