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

Volume 20 - Issue 10 - March 22, 2013 


Congress' final decisions on FY 2013 appropriations are headed for a presidential signature after lopsided Senate and House passage of H.R. 933 this week. The process started back in April 2012, and it finished 172 days into FY 2013. Yeoman bipartisan negotiations spearheaded by Kentucky Representative Harold Rogers and Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski, House and Senate Appropriations Committee chairs, ended another dreary, belabored "power of the purse" exercise.
Messages for states: (1) Sequestration is alive and well. All $85 billion in first-year domestic and defense discretionary spending reductions are in H.R. 933. (2) The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant is authorized and funded for 187 additional days, through Sept. 30, 2013. (3) Only the Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-State, Defense, Homeland Security and Military Construction-Veterans Affairs appropriations are officially worked out. These program areas will have  more flexibility in determining how to apply the sequestration-forced reductions. All other discretionary spending in other budget functions like education, health and human services will work off of a continuing resolution (essentially FY 2012 levels less sequestration). (4) Transportation funding tracks MAP-21. (5) WIC, Head Start, Justice grants and the Child Care and Development Block Grant get small appropriations bumps. (6) Sequestration takes approximately $3 billion out of emergency funding, including Hurricane Sandy assistance. (7) An additional $55 million is provided to forestall furloughs of food inspectors. Coming soon: the FY 2014 appropriations process. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley (appropriations generally), Sheri Steisel, Emily Wengrovius (TANF, human services), Ben Husch (transportation)


The House and Senate spent this week discussing and voting on the budget resolutions introduced last. Both outline budget priorities over the next year and provide long-term fiscal frameworks. After rejecting several other alternative budget proposals, the House on Thursday adopted House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget resolution (H. Con. Res. 25) by a vote of 221-207. Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” would cut the deficit by $4.6 trillion and balance the federal government’s annual budget in 10 years. Other highlights include a revenue neutral plan that would consolidate individual income tax brackets, convert Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) into block grants and establish a premium support plan for Medicare in 2024. The Senate will vote on Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray’s budget resolution (S. Con. Res. 8) today after considering a number of amendments, including a vote in support of the Marketplace Fairness Act. Murray’s plan offers contrasting policy priorities to the House budget proposal. The Senate resolution achieves deficit savings through spending cuts and revenue increases, but also includes a stimulus package that would provide additional funding for transportation projects, job training programs and the creation of an infrastructure bank. The resolutions also vary in how they address sequestration. Chairman Ryan assumes the sequester cuts are here to stay, and includes them in his FY 2014 budget with slight modifications as he transfers reductions from defense to non-defense discretionary spending. Chairwoman Murray  proposes to eliminate sequestration through equal spending cuts on defense and non-defense spending and increased revenue from both high-income Americans and corporations. For more information, please view NCSL’s summary of the two budget plans here: NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


NCSL sent two letters to Congress last week addressing the issues of nuclear waste management and the state-federal partnership in implementing environmental programs. The nuclear letter, delivered on March 12, called for a “…consent based approach that involves state legislatures” as the Senate develops draft legislation concerning the development of a permanent disposal facility for high level waste/used nuclear fuel and establishment of consolidated interim storage facilities. The second letter, delivered March 11, called for maintaining and renewing the authority for states to develop standards more stringent than federal standards and maximum flexibility for states to comply with federal standards. The letter seeks expansion of the constructive and enduring intergovernmental consultation process managed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to the agency’s regulatory guidance, program memoranda and regulatory compliance costs estimates. Both letters are available at; NCSL staff contacts: Tamra Spielvogel, Melanie Condon (nuclear, environment), Ben Husch (nuclear)


Last Tuesday the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on federal tax provisions that affect state and local governments. This hearing is one of many the committee has held recently as members consider reforming the federal tax code. “Changes to the tax code will have a real impact on state and local economies,” stated House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp in his opening remarks. “The committee needs to hear directly from these stakeholders before considering any proposals as part of comprehensive tax reform.” As Congress and the administration explore ways to reduce the federal deficit, state and local revenue provisions often come under increased scrutiny. For example, proposals to cap or repeal tax-exempt financing of municipal bonds and deductions for state and local income, property and sales taxes have been tendered by the administration and various deficit reduction commissions. Additional information on the hearing, including testimony, is available here: NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley