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

Volume 19    Issue 11 - March 30, 2012
 

HOUSE CLEARS BUDGET RESOLUTION

The House passed a FY 2013 budget resolution on Thursday that would—over the next 10 years—reduce the deficit by $5 trillion. It proposes to:  

  • Cap discretionary spending at $1.028 trillion, $19 billion less than what the Budget Control Act calls for;
  • Turn Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program into block grants;
  • Reduce state-federal grants spending; and
  • Make revenue-neutral tax reform.

Developed by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the legislation (H. Con. Res. 112) passed by a vote of 228-191. A number of counter budget proposals were introduced, but failed. The Republican Study Committee offered a proposal to balance the budget within five years, setting the FY 2013 cap at $931 billion, by eliminating or significantly cutting federal programs. House Democrats proposed eliminating the 2001-2003 tax cuts for high-income earners and endorsed the “Buffet Rule,” which would issue a surtax on millionaires. The Congressional Progress Caucus plan would accomplish the same debt-to-GDP ratios as the House budget resolution, but instead of making significant spending cuts, it would raise additional revenue by increasing tax rates on high-income earners and establishing new taxes on banks. The one common goal from each plan:  Abolish the sequestration trigger in the Budget Control Act. One other budget proposal of note was the Bipartisan Budget Resolution, offered by Tennessee Rep. Jim Cooper and Ohio Rep. Steven LaTourette. Modeled after recommendations from the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, the Bipartisan Budget Resolution called for long-term savings of $4.1 trillion, achieved through cuts to discretionary spending and mandatory programs and reforms to taxes and Social Security. In the end, it suffered the same fate as the other budget alternatives, being rejected by a vote of 38-382.

After returning from recess, six House committees will follow instructions in H. Con. Res. 112 and begin the budget reconciliation process, which is targeted to achieve $261 billion of deficit savings over 10 years. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


TRANSPORTATION PROGRAMS AVOID SHUTDOWN

With only days to spare before a shutdown, the president signed legislation on Thursday that extends the surface transportation reauthorization by three months. Both the House and Senate cleared H.R. 4281, which ensures continuation of funding for state-federal highway, rail and transit programs. This is the ninth short-term extension in the last three years of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity: A Legacy for Users Act. House leaders refused to consider Senate legislation that would have provided $109 billion over two years for transportation programs. Now what? After lawmakers return from a two-week spring recess, work will begin again on developing a long-term transportation reauthorization. The House has already indicated it will revive efforts to pass a five-year, $260 billion package. Funding for the highway trust fund and the future of the mass transit system must also be determined. Stay tuned. NCSL staff contacts: Ben Husch, Jennifer Arguinzoni


NCSL VOICES STATES’ CONCERNS IN TWO ENVIRONMENTAL MESSAGES

Supporting states’ concerns over the Clean Water Act and coastal marine management, NCSL delivered two clear and firm recommendations to Congress and the administration this week. The first letter expressed NCSL’s support for S. 2245, introduced by Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, that would block a proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidance broadening the reach of the Clean Water Act. NCSL insisted this issue be addressed through the regulatory process with full consultation of state legislators and other elected officials. Last year the Wyoming Senator added his bill's language as a rider to an end-of-session appropriations measure, but it was dropped in late negotiations. In the second letter, NCSL urged the National Ocean Council to “ensure that state legislatures are active partners” in that agency’s efforts to develop and carry out regional coastal and marine resource management plans. Both NCSL letters were signed by Indiana Senator Beverly Gard and Washington Representative Jeff Morris, co-chairs of NCSL's Environment Committee. The letters can be read here: http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/env-res/waters-of-the-us-act-letter-march-28-2012.aspx; http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/env-res/national-ocean-plan-implementation-comments.aspx. NCSL staff contacts: Tamra Spielvogel, Marcus Peterson