Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Nutrition program consequences in the President's FY 2007 budget

In response to the release of the President's fiscal year (FY) 2007 budget proposal last month, the Food Research and Action Center distills the national anti-hunger group's counter-proposal into several simple themes:

Say No to Budget and Funding Threats to Nutrition Programs

Reject Multi-Year Caps in Key Discretionary Programs. The Administration's proposal to set binding caps on discretionary programs that do not allow for inflation or population growth will shrink programs more each year -- with a 4 percent cut in FY2007 tripling to a 13 percent cut in FY 2011.

Reject Another Round of Budget Reconciliation. It would exacerbate the harm to low-income families made in the FY 2006 Reconciliation Bill. The FY2006 Reconciliation bill cut $39 billion from entitlement programs. Low-income families will be hard pressed to cope with the deep cuts already made in Medicaid, student loans, child support enforcement, child care, foster care, disability assistance and other essential programs.

Don’t Shift Costs to States, Charities and Families. With 38 million Americans living in hunger or on the edge of hunger, states, cities, food banks, religious groups and other community-based non-profits are already struggling to meet the needs. Don’t add to those burdens by federal program cuts.

Meanwhile, the clever folks at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities put several public documents together -- including some documents that the administration apparently released in error -- to paint a clearer picture of the proposed budget's real implications in the out years.

The President’s budget proposes substantial cuts in funding for domestic discretionary programs over the next five years. The budget specifies the funding level for each program in 2007, but the levels for specific programs for years after 2007 — the years in which the overall level of reductions in domestic discretionary programs would grow substantially — are hard to discern from the budget documents the Administration released publicly. This analysis uses Administration materials that were not widely distributed — including a key Office of Management and Budget (OMB) computer run that apparently was released inadvertently — to show the multi-year impact of the proposed cuts on a number of important domestic discretionary programs.

This analysis also examines the effect that the cuts in funding for domestic programs the President has proposed for 2007 through 2011 would have state by state. Many domestic programs have long been operated efficiently through a system of grants-in-aid to state and local governments. Nearly half of the overall reduction in domestic discretionary funding proposed by the President for 2007 would come from such grants-in-aid. Implementing these reductions would force states to reduce the services they provide or increase their own taxes to make up for the federal costs being shifted to them. This analysis shows how proposed cuts in selected programs would affect individual states.

The submission of the President's budget proposal starts the annual cycle of budget debate in Congress. The budget committees must pass a version of the budget that satisfies Congress. For any cuts to "mandatory programs" -- including entitlement programs like food stamps -- the authorizing committees must approve the cuts. For any cuts to "discretionary programs" -- including WIC -- the appropriations committees may be the main locus of debate.