Overview of the FY 2015 'Cromnibus'

12/15/2014

More than 75 days into the fiscal year, Congress passed a budget that funds a majority of the federal government for the reminder of the fiscal year until the end of September 2015.

The last-minute agreement, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 (H.R. 83), passed the House and Senate late last week by bipartisan votes of 219-206 and 56-40, respectively.

The one appropriations bill not included is Homeland Security, which will be funded until the end of February to allow additional time for Congress to respond to the president’s executive order on immigration.

Given the moniker “cromnibus,” as it is a hybrid continuing resolution and omnibus, H.R. 83 follows both the discretionary cap first designed in the Budget Control Act and later modified in last year’s Bipartisan Budget Agreement, which reduced the funding reductions from sequestration. Thus, the spending package provides $521 billion for defense and $492 billion for nondefense discretionary spending, essentially providing level funding compared to FY 2014.

 A comparison of discretionary and mandatory funding for select state-federal programs has also been provided by Federal Funds Information for States (FFIS).

 * FY 2015 program appropriations are compared to post-sequestration FY 2014 funding levels

Agriculture

U.S. CapitolH.R. 83 provides $20.6 billion in discretionary funding to the Agriculture Department, Food and Drug Administration and related agencies.

  • Women, Infants and Children (WIC)—The bill provides full funding for WIC at $6.6 billion—$93 million below the FY 2014 enacted level, which will ensure all eligible participants will be served. The bill also includes $25 million for states to transfer from paper vouchers to a more efficient electronic benefit transfer (EBT) system that will help identify waste and abuse within the program.
  • Child Nutrition ProgramsH.R. 83 allows $21.3 billion in required mandatory funding, which is outside the discretionary funding jurisdiction of the Appropriations Committee, for child nutrition programs. Of this amount, $25 million is directed to help schools purchase needed equipment to operate the program. This funding will provide for an estimated 7.7 billion school breakfasts, lunches and snacks for 31 million children who qualify for the program.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)The bill allows $ 81.8 billion in required mandatory spending for SNAP. This is $332 million below the FY 2014 enacted level and $2.4 billion below the President’s request.
  • Ebola Emergency Preparedness and ResponseH.R. 83 provides $25 million in emergency funding to the Food and Drug Administration for activities related to the ongoing response to the Ebola epidemic, including potential expedited approval of human drugs and vaccines.

Additionally, the spending bill made changes to the agriculture conservation programs by providing $859 million in discretionary funding for conservation programs, while cutting $136 million in mandatory spending from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and $7 million from the Conservation Stewardship Program. H.R. 83 also increases the budget of USDA's Biotechnology Regulatory Services by $740,000 to help improve the pace of decisions on new biotech plant traits..

Criminal Justice

The budget deal provides $1.24 billion in funding for state and local criminal justice programs.

  • Violence Against Women—$430 million, increased from $417 million in 2014
  • Byrne/JAG (funding to assist state and local efforts to prevent and reduce crime and violence)$376 million, increased from $344 million in 2014
  • Community Oriented Policing (COPS)—$208 million, decreased from $214 million in 2014
  • State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP)—$185 million, increased from $180 million in 2014
  • Juvenile Justice Programs—$251.5 million, decreased from $255 million in 2014
  • Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI)—$28 million, level funding from 2014
     

Education

Overall, the “cromnibus” holds education funding largely steady, however, it does include several increases for early childhood programs. Core programs that provide federal education funding to states are level-funded or slightly increased.

  • Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), focused on disadvantaged students, received a $25 million increase over FY 2014 levels to $14.4 billion. 
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) grants would be funded at $11.5 billion, also a $25 million increase.
  • Race to the Top, a signature competitive grant program of the Obama Administration, received no funding for FY 2015.
  • School Improvement Grants received the same $506 million in funding, with legislative language virtually identical to last year’s budget that allows states the option to make longer, five-year awards to districts and grants school districts the option to use either whole-school reform models or another, Department of Education-approved model in place of the program’s already-established four school turnaround models. $14 million under Title III of ESEA will be allocated for grants to state education agencies in states with at least one county where 50 or more unaccompanied minor children have been released to sponsors since January 2014.
  • Preschool Development Grant program will receive $250 million.
  • $2.4 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant program, a $75 million increase to help support a recent update of the program, which bolsters health and safety standards for child care programs.
  • The spending bill keeps funding for Head Start steady at $8.6 billion. Overall, the U.S Department of Education would be funded to the tune of $70.5 billion, a slight $133 million decrease from fiscal 2014.

While new school nutrition rules created under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 were put on hold for a year, it does include some state flexibility. States could exempt some schools from a requirement that went into effect July 1 that requires all grains in school meals to be whole-grain rich. And the spending bill freezes sodium restrictions "until the latest scientific research establishes the reduction is beneficial for children."

Environment

Overall, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will receive $8.1 billion in FY 2015, $60 million below its FY 2014 appropriation. Additionally, staffing levels will be decreased to their “lowest levels since 1989.”

Within specific programs that are geared towards states, there was little movement with funding for both the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund as spending held steady at $1.45 billion and $907 million respectively. Additionally, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative received $300 million, the same as in FY 2014.

While the bill does include a provision that requires the withdrawal of a Waters of the U.S. interpretive rule of 56 agricultural exemptions EPA issued in conjunction with its proposed rule on Waters of the United States, the budget bill does not prevent the EPA from finalizing its larger proposed rule on Waters of the U.S.

Energy

Overall, the bill provides $10.2 billion for energy programs within the Department of Energy (DOE), a $22 million increase above the FY 2014 enacted level.

  • Weatherization Assistance Grants, increased 10.9 percent to $193 million, as compared to FY 2014.
  • State Energy Program was held steady at $50 million.
  • $1.9 billion for Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, $25 million above the FY 2014 level along with $571 million for research on advanced coal, natural gas, oil and other fossil energy technologies, a 1.5 percent increase from FY 2014.
  • Funding for two other notable DOE offices include Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Office of Science, which received $280 million and $5.01 billion respectively, the same as in FY 2014.

Additionally, the bill does not include any new funding for activities related to storing high level nuclear waste. This follows an October report from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission which state that the repository would be "safe" for humans and the environment once closed. Additional reports on the site are expected to be published in January.

Financial Services / Telecommunications

  • Bars the National Telecommunications and Information Administration from using FY 2015 funds to transition away U.S. control of oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the domain name system.
  • Freezes funding for the Federal Communications Commission at $340 million, the same as the FY 2014 level—and for the fourth year in a row.
  • The Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA), which prevents non-grandfathered states and localities from taxing Iinternet access, was extended through the remainder of the 2015 federal fiscal year. Grandfathered states, or those that were already imposing tax on Internet access prior to Oct. 1, 1998, include Hawaii, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Health and Human Services

The Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS) and Education portion of the omnibus include $156.8 billion in discretionary funding, which is the same as the FY 2014 enacted level and $926 million below the President’s budget request.

Affordable Care Act

  • No new funding for Affordable Care Act (ACA) implementation.
  • Flat funding for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
  • Provides no funding for the Risk Corridor program.
  • Places additional restrictions on the Prevention and Public Health Fund.
  • Directs the Inspectors General at HHS and the Department of Treasury to report on improper payments of tax subsidies under the ACA.
  • Reduces funding for the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) by $10 million.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

  • Targets funding to critical disease prevention and bio-defense research activities. In total, the bill includes a program level of $6. 9 billion for the CDC, $43 million above the FY 2014 program level.
  • $30 million to support the Advanced Molecular Detection initiative to enhance CDC’s ability to find and stop deadly infectious disease outbreaks.
  • $160 million for the Preventive Health & Health Services Block Grant, which allows each state to address its most critical public health needs.
  • $1.3 billion for Public Health Preparedness and Response to help ensure ample resources for state and local preparedness programs. These programs provide supplies and resources for a quick and effective response in the event of a bio-terror attack or pandemic disease emergency.

National Institutes of Health (NIH) – The bill includes a program level of $30 billion for the NIH, $ 150 million above the fiscal year 2014 level. This funding will continue basic bio - medical research and translational research through programs like the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) and Institutional Development Award (IDeA) to help scientists discover cures. It includes specific increases for Alzheimer’s, cancer, and brain research, and $12.6 million for the Gabriella Miller Kids First Act pediatric research initiative.

Ebola Crisis - The bill includes $ 2.7 billion in emergency funding to address the Ebola crisis, $410 million below the President’s request. This funding level is sufficient to meet all emergency and immediate needs to ensure U.S. hospitals and medical personnel are fully prepared to respond to and stop the spread of this dangerous virus within our country.

Interior

Overall, the bill provides $10.7 billion to the Department of Interior, just shy of $250 million more than in FY 2014. Within DOI, the funding is divided:

  • $2.615 billion for the National Park Service, $55 million above FY 2014.
  • $1.086 billion for the Bureau of Land Management, $13 million above FY 2014.
  • $1.440 billion for the Fish and Wildlife Service, $13 million more than FY 2014.
  • $2.402 billion for the Forest Service's non-wildfire accounts, which is equal to FY 2014.
  • $3.5 billion for wildfire fighting and prevention programs, which is equal to the full 10-year average level.

Of note to states is the $372 million in funding for Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) that, when combined with the $70 million included in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, would provide full funding for FY 2015 ($442 million). PILT provides funding to those counties that have a significant amount of federal, non-taxable land. Additionally, the bill provides $69 million to the Department’s Office of Surface Mining that shall be made as grants to states to continue their surface mining regulatory program.

The bill also contains a provision that would ban the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) from proposing or finalizing Endangered Species Act listings for sage grouse during FY 2015. Two notable items not contained in the final bill are funding for Secure Rural Schools (SRS), a program that provides funding to forested Western counties coping with declines in timber revenue, as well as an overhaul, proposed by both members of Congress and the Administration regarding how to fund wildfire disaster efforts.

Labor

The bill provides $11.9 billion for the Department of Labor, a cut of $99 million below the fiscal year (FY) 2014 enacted level.

This funding includes:

  • $2.624 billion, (an increase of $36 million from FY 2014), for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) grants to states to provide job training skills and assistance to low skilled adults, dislocated workers and low income youth with barriers to employment.  It also increases the Governor’s Reserve to 10 percent from 8.75 percent. 
  • $9.7 billion for the Employment and Training Administration, which is a decrease of $651 million from the FY 2014 enacted level
  • $1.7 billion for the Office of Job Corps, which is equal to the FY 2014 levels, to help younger unemployed Americans receive job training education and career assistance
  • $270 million for Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS), which is $458,000 above the FY 2014 enacted level, (includes $14 million for the Transition Assistance Program to help new veterans receive training for civilian employment and job search assistance)
  • $375.9 million for the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), which is equal to the FY 2014 enacted level.
  • The bill includes $274.2 million for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), equal to the FY 2014 enacted level and $3.6 million below the President’s budget request. 

Transportation

Overall, the bill provides $17.8 billion in discretionary appropriations for the Department of Transportation (DOT), $21 million above FY 2014. Within these discretionary appropriations, the bill provides:

  • $12.3 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration
  • $2.3 billion to the Federal Transit Administration; $17 million less than FY 2014
  • $1.6 billion to the Federal Railroad Administration; $141 million above FY 2014
  • $1.4 billion going to Amtrak, although no funding is available for high-speed rail programs
  • $500 million for the TIGER program, $100 million below FY 2014. The program funds projects, on a competitive basis, which build and repair critical pieces of our freight and passenger transportation networks.

Additionally, based on the funding levels set forth in MAP-21, there is almost no change in the amount of highway, road and bridge funding directed towards states with funding levels unchanged for the National Highway Performance Program, Surface Transportation Program, Highway Safety Improvement Program and the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program. However, funding for the New Starts program, which provides funding via competitive grants for major transit investments was increased $177 million.

Other provisions of note include a requirement for DOT to finalize its proposed rule on tank car safety relating to the shipment of crude oil by rail by Jan. 15, two months earlier than its most recent timeframe for completing the rule. DOT is not expected to be able to finalize the rule within this timeframe. The bill also provides $1.1 billion for harbor maintenance and operations, $100 million above FY 2014, although still less than authorizers approved earlier this year.