CHN: How Low Can You Go; House Appropriators Start to Carry Out FY 2012 Budget Cuts

New Table with Comparisons to FY 2010 and FY 2011.
Congress’ impetus to cut spending rushed along on many fronts this week.  While Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) called for $2 trillion in cuts over ten years before he would support a debt ceiling increase (see article about the debt ceiling in this issue), appropriators in the House set about the work of divvying up the House Budget Resolution’s cuts for next year among the dozen subcommittees charged with making annual spending decisions.

The House Appropriations Committee released its allocations for FY 2012 to its subcommittees on May 10.  The total, $1.019 trillion, is $31 billion less than the amount recently approved for the current fiscal year.  However, that masks the extent of cuts to all programs except Defense, because Defense subcommittee expenditures are slated to grow by $17 billion from FY 2011 to FY 2012 – the only subcommittee that does not sustain cuts.  Leaving aside Defense, the cut to all other appropriations is $47.38 billion.  When added to the substantial cuts enacted in FY 2011, many areas of domestic spending would see very large reductions over two years.  All program areas besides Defense would be cut by about $92 billion compared to FY 2010.  The largest percentage cut hits the Transportation/Housing subcommittee, at 29.8 percent since FY 2010.  It is expected that low-income housing programs would experience large cuts if these numbers are approved.  Other subcommittees with large two-year percentage cuts include Agriculture/FDA, with 26 percent, Commerce/Justice/Science, 22 percent, and Labor/HHS/Education, nearly 15 percent.  For Labor/HHS/Education, the two-year cuts would total $24.4 billion; for Transportation/Housing, the cuts would exceed $20 billion.

The additional cuts appropriators would have to make to reach the FY 2012 levels are steep:  more than $18 billion would be the one-year cut for Labor/HHS/Education, for example; Transportation/Housing would sustain a $7.7 billion cut.

(Click here for a table showing subcommittee appropriations in FY’s 2010 and 2011 and the proposed allocations for FY 2012.)

The subcommittees now have the job of setting funding levels for all the specific programs within their jurisdictions, covering everything from education to public housing to environmental protection to homeland security.  Two subcommittees are expected to approve FY 2012 bills on Friday, May 13:  Homeland Security and Military Construction/Veterans Affairs.  The Agriculture subcommittee is scheduled to act on its bill on May 24, with full committee approval expected the following week.  Transportation/Housing and Labor/HHS/Education will not see subcommittee action until July.  (Click here for the full schedule as released by the committee.)

Until the subcommittees report out bills, no information is available about how services will fare.  But it is expected that many of the cuts proposed by the House leadership for FY 2011 which were not adopted will surface again.  Those included deep cuts to Head Start, community health centers, other community services, job training, education programs, and nutrition assistance for the elderly.  Recommendations in the House Budget Resolution will also be considered by appropriators, such as deep cuts to job training programs and eliminating the $1.7 billion Social Services Block Grant.

There will also be pressures from the most right-wing House Members to cut more deeply than the Appropriations Committee is now proposing.  Members of the Republican Study Committee are expected to propose steeper cuts than the Appropriations Committee’s levels.

House and Senate Republicans also want to apply cuts to the programs that do not require annual appropriations – programs like Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, and SNAP/food stamps.  The House Budget Resolution included major restrictions in Medicaid and Medicare which have proven very unpopular in public opinion polls and forums held by Members of Congress.  (See HNR article from April 19.)

Budget and Appropriations
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