Friday, December 12, 2014 The CSAC Bulletin
Federal Issues Update

The House approved a sweeping $1.1 trillion omnibus appropriations measure late Thursday night after a tense debate over several controversial add-ons to the legislation (HR 83). With Democrats lining up to blast several aspects of the package - and with a number of Republicans opposing the measure for various reasons - final passage of the bill appeared to be in doubt. In the end, 60 Democrats joined a majority of GOP members to put the legislation over the top in a narrow 219-206 vote.

Action now turns to the Senate, where the upper chamber is expected to approve the bill in the coming days. In the meantime, government agencies and programs are operating on a two-day continuing resolution (CR), which was cleared by both chambers just hours before the previous stop-gap funding measure was slated to expire.

Overall, HR 83 sets discretionary funding at $1.013 trillion, which adheres to the nondefense and defense spending caps that were established under last year’s Ryan-Murray budget deal (PL 113-67). The bill provides long-term funding - through September 30, 2015 - for 11 of the 12 annual appropriations measures, plus a short-term CR for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The CR portion of the legislation, which will run through February 27, is intended as a GOP rebuke of President Obama's recent Executive Order on immigration and will likely force a partisan showdown over immigration policy early in the new Congress.

The final spending bill also includes emergency funding for several high-priority activities, including $5.4 billion for various agencies to combat the Ebola crisis in West Africa. Additionally, the measure provides $64 billion in uncapped war funding, which includes $5.6 billion in emergency funds for military operations against the Islamic State terrorist group.

Below are highlights of HR 83, which is being referred to as a "cromnibus" (omnibus + continuing resolution).

Payments-in-Lieu-of-Taxes

In a major win for California's counties, the final spending legislation provides $372 million for the Payments-in-lieu-of-Taxes (PILT) program. The funding, combined with the $70 million for PILT that was included in the Department of Defense authorization bill (HR 3979), will bring total PILT funding for fiscal year 2015 to $442 million (slightly more than the fiscal year 2014 level of $436.9 million).

Secure Rural Schools

The cromnibus does not include an extension of funding for the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program. According to a statement released by Representative Greg Walden (R-OR), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has pledged that House Republicans will work with the new GOP majority in the Senate to devise a long-term solution that would provide certainty for rural forested communities. Walden's statement also indicates that the speaker has committed the House to working on an extension of SRS in the first quarter of 2015.

State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP)

HR 83 includes $185 million for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP). The final spending level represents a modest ($5 million) boost in program funding.

Transportation

The budget package provides nearly $41 billion in obligation limitation funding for the Federal Highway program, the same level as authorized by MAP-21. Additionally, the legislation includes $500 million for the competitive TIGER grant program, which represents a $100 million decrease. Settling on a final spending level for TIGER grants was one of the last remaining sticking points in negotiations on the transportation title of the spending bill. The legislation does not provide funding for high-speed rail.

Wildfire Fighting and Prevention

In total, the spending bill provides $3.5 billion - which includes $526 million for hazardous fuels reduction - for wildfire accounts within the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service. This will fully address wildland fire suppression operations at the 10-year average. The measure also provides $65 million to acquire new aircraft needed for fire suppression so that older planes can be phased out. It should be noted that the bill does not include a proposal to overhaul how the nation pays for wildfires.

Moratorium on Internet Access Taxes

The legislation temporarily extends (through October 1, 2015) a law that prevents local governments from taxing broadband internet access. The current moratorium was set to expire on December 11, 2014.

Policy Riders

The cromnibus contains a number of extraneous "policy riders," including language that would restrict the application of the Clean Water Act (CWA) in certain agricultural areas, such as farm ponds and irrigation ditches. The bill also blocks the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from moving forward with a rule that would redefine “fill material” under the CWA.

The bill does not, however, retain language adopted by the House earlier this year that would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps from implementing a highly controversial proposal that would further define which bodies of water can be subject to federal regulation. The so-called "Waters of the U.S." rule, which may be finalized next spring, will continue to be opposed by members from both sides of the aisle.

To follow are charts that compare fiscal year 2014 and fiscal year 2015 funding levels for a number of key programs. The numbers in the charts are in millions of dollars.

Key Programmatic Funding Levels

Fiscal Year 2014 vs. Fiscal Year 2015

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

FY 2014

ENACTED

FY 2015

OMNIBUS

FEDERAL-AID HIGHWAY OBLIGATION LIMIT

$41,000

$41,000

TIGER GRANTS

$600

$500

TRANSIT FORMULA PROGRAM

$8,600

$8,600

CAPITAL INVESTMENT GRANTS

$1,900

$2,100

GRANTS-IN-AID FOR AIRPORT OBLIGATION LIMIT

$3,350

$3,350

HIGH SPEED RAIL

---

---

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

FY 2014

ENACTED

FY 2015

OMNIBUS

SCAAP

$180

$185

COPS HIRING GRANTS

$180

$180

Methamphetamine Enforcement

---

$7

BYRNE/JAG

$376

$376

RESIDENTIAL SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT

$10

$10

OFFENDER REENTRY PROGRAMS

$67.7

$68

JUVENILE ACCOUNTABILITY BLOCK GRANT

---

---

PART B - STATE FORMULA GRANTS

$55.5

$55.5

TITLE V - DELINQUENCY PREVENTION

$15

$15

PRISON RAPE PREVENTION/PROSECUTION

$12.5

$13

YOUTH MENTORING GRANTS

$88.5

$90

WATER RESOURCES/AIR QUALITY

FY 2014

ENACTED

FY 2015

OMNIBUS

CALIFORNIA BAY-DELTA RESTORATION (Bureau of Reclamation (BoR))

$37

$37

WATER RECLAMATION & REUSE PROJECTS (BoR)

$21.5

$21.5

WATERSMART GRANTS (BoR)

$19

$19

ESA RECOVERY IMPLEMENTATION (BoR)

$21.2

$22.7

CLEAN WATER STATE REVOLVING FUND (EPA)

$1,450

$1,450

DRINKING WATER STATE REVOLVING FUND (EPA)

$906

$907

STATE & LOCAL AIR QUALITY MANAGEMENT GRANTS

$228

$228

DIESEL EMMISSIONS REDUCTIONS GRANTS

$20

$30

DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

FY 2014

ENACTED

FY 2015

CONTINUING RESOLUTION*

ASSISTANCE TO FIREFIGHTER GRANTS

$680

FY 2014 Level

EMERGENCY MGMT PERFORMANCE GRANTS

$350

"

STATE HOMELAND SECURITY PROGRAM

$446

"

URBAN AREA SECURITY INITIATIVE

$600

"

BORDER PATROL AGENTS (# OF AGENTS)

21,370

"

CBP OFFICERS (# OF OFFICERS)

24,800

"

* The Department of Homeland Security is funded under a temporary Continuing Resolution that will expire on February 27, 2015.

HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT

FY 2014

ENACTED

FY 2015

OMNIBUS

CDBG

$3,030

$3,000

HOME INVESTMENT PARTNERSHIPS PROGRAM

$1,000

$900

CHOICE NEIGHBORHOODS INITIATIVE

$90

$80

HOMELESS ASSISTANCE GRANTS

$2,105

$2,135

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

FY 2014

ENACTED

FY 2015

OMNIBUS

USDA RURAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS

$2,400

$2,400

USDA WATER & WASTE DISPOSAL GRANTS

$452

$465

RURAL COMMUNITY FACILITIES GRANTS

$29

$27

RURAL BROADBAND GRANTS

$10

$10

DISTANCE LEARNING AND TELEMEDICINE

$24

$22

HUMAN SERVICES

FY 2014

ENACTED

FY 2015

OMNIBUS

TANF

$16,500

$16,500

FOSTER CARE

$4,200

$4,200

SSBG

$1,700

$1,700

LIHEAP

$3,400

$3,400

CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT

$4,000

$3,600

HEAD START

$8,500

$8,600

CHILD CARE DEVELOPMENT FUND

$2,300

$2,400

OLDER AMERICANS ACT PROGRAMS

$1,300

$1,300

ELDER JUSTICE ACT

---

---

COMMUNITY SERVICES BLOCK GRANT

$674

$674

SNAP/FOOD STAMPS

$82,200

$81,800

WORKFORCE INVESTMENT ACT PROGRAMS

$2,600

$2,600

HEALTH PROGRAMS

FY 2014

ENACTED

FY 2015

OMNIBUS

MEDICAID

$284,000

$338,000

RYAN WHITE HIV/AIDS PROGRAM

$2,300

$2,300

MATERNAL & CHILD HEALTH BLOCK GRANT

$634

$637

PREVENTIVE HLTH/HEALTH SERVICES GRANT

$160

$160

PREVENTION AND PUBLIC HEALTH FUND

$928

$927

Drought Legislation

As expected, House passed earlier this week legislation (HR 5781) designed to provide temporary drought relief to the parched Central Valley. The bill, which was approved largely along party lines, is a scaled-back version of a measure (HR 3964) that cleared the lower chamber in February. As he did earlier this year, Representative Jim Costa (D-CA) joined California Republicans in voting for the package.

HR 5781 includes a number of provisions aimed at boosting water deliveries to drought-stricken areas of the state, including language that would provide federal resource agencies with additional operational flexibility. The bill, sponsored by Representative David Valadao (R-CA), also includes language stipulating that authorities under the legislation would expire on September 30, 2016 or the date the emergency drought declaration is lifted, whichever is later.

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) both signaled that they would oppose the House legislation unless certain environmental provisions were revised. Likewise, the White House released a Statement of Administration Policy on HR 5781 citing a number of reasons for its opposition to the bill. According to the White House, HR 5781 includes new provisions that could lead to unintended consequences or further litigation and is being considered without a hearing or opportunity for public review and comment.

The opposition to the drought package effectively closes the door on the prospect that the recast legislation might advance in the waning days of the Congress. Looking ahead, the strengthened GOP majority on Capitol Hill will likely look for opportunities to approve a new drought measure.