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

Volume 19   Issue 30 - October 5, 2012


APPROPRIATIONS “PROGRESS.”

President Obama signed H.J.Res. 117 on Sept. 28 funding federal programs and operations through March 27, 2013 at 0.6 percent above FY 2012 levels. This continuing resolution gives states a temporary smidgen of certainty on federal funding. It also means that if sequestration is carried out on Jan. 2, 2013, across-the-board cuts to nonexempt, state-federal programs would be made from the continuing resolution’s funding levels. Should appropriators agree on funding levels for individual programs for the March 28 to Sept. 30, 2013 time period, the 0.6 percent increase would likely result in plusses for some programs and minuses for others.
 
Meanwhile, Senate appropriators have revitalized efforts to finish their dozen remaining appropriations bills during the cluttered lame duck-session by grouping them into an omnibus package. If it passes, the next Congress would not have to spend the first quarter on “old business.” This effort, however, has not prompted similar action in the House of Representatives where the majority party wants to reduce spending beyond the Senate’s levels. It must adhere to the discretionary spending ceiling agreed to in the Budget Control Act, which is $19 billion more than the House’s level. Additionally, the time it will take to address the “fiscal cliff”—tax cuts, tax extenders, sequestration and more—could easily eclipse all other issues. Stay tuned. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


GANG OF EIGHT PUSH DEFICIT DEAL
 


A group of senators are continuing their efforts to develop a comprehensive deficit reduction plan during the post-election session to avoid the “fiscal cliff.” The original bipartisan Gang of Six has grown by two and is working on a proposal to reduce government debt by more than $4 trillion over 10 years through changes to the federal tax code, reforms to entitlement programs and reductions to federal spending. Reports indicate the gang’s plan would delegate congressional committees to find deficit savings over the next six to 12 months, with another plan, such as the Bowles-Simpson proposal, triggered if they fail. In the meantime, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) signaled last week that federal agencies should “continue normal spending and operations” in FY 2013 guided by the continuing resolution passed on Sept. 28 and that they should ignore the threat of federal spending cuts due to sequestration. Although the OMB also stated it would address sequestration if no congressional action is taken, this directive continues the administration’s ongoing assumption that the sequester will either be modified, delayed or repealed. For a better understanding of the various efforts and proposals to halt sequestration, read NCSL’s document listing all such plans here: http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=25320. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


DATA ACT DEVELOPMENTS
 


As expected, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman renewed their bipartisan effort for fiscal responsibility by reintroducing the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA). The act, which Sen. Warner previously released in June 2011, would increase transparency and accountability for spending across federal agencies. The good news is this version has several improvements on the legislation passed in the House (H.R. 2146) earlier this year. Specifically, the Senate bill would expand reporting obligations on federal agencies, avoiding new requirements on states and localities. If each chamber’s legislation goes to conference, concerns still exist, since the House version may impose new unfunded mandates on state governments. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


PENSION FUNDING TO THE FORE
 


New accounting standards and expected adjustments to how credit rating agencies conduct analyses are putting pension funding under the microscope. To provide guidance and develop new databases, NCSL and its state and local government association counterparts have formed a pension funding task force to address accounting standards, annual required contributions and funding policies generally. The task force’s efforts were spelled out on Sept. 28 in a letter to the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, which recently authored the new pension accounting standards that are to be fully adopted by 2015. The letter is available at http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=25325. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley (D.C. office)