Techniques Magazine Techniques February 2011 : Page 12

CA p I t OL VIEW The Ins and Outs of Budget and Appropriations By Jamie Baxter EVERY YEAR BEGINNING IN FEBRUARY, the federal appropriations and budget process starts. The entire process can be confusing, tedious, slow, exciting and devastating—all at the same time. Through this article, I want to take you through the budget and appropria -tions process so that you understand the ins and outs, and can then tailor your advocacy messages accordingly. Please keep in mind that this is how the budget calendar usually operates. Every year is different. First Monday in February: President’s Budget Released On the first Monday of February, the president releases his budget proposal for all federal programs. Each federal agency holds briefings on what is included in the budget, and why the president funded programs a certain way. Although the president’s budget is not a legal document, it is used primarily as a guideline for Congress to use when allocating funds to specific programs. The president’s budget typically “holds more water” when the same political party of the president is the majority in Congress. If the opposite party is in charge, then the budget may not receive as much positive attention, since that party will be developing its own agenda. This work typically begins in the Budget Committee where overall spending caps for broad issue areas ( e.g. , labor, health and human services, and education) are decided and put into a budget resolution. The budget resolution is not a legally binding document; but it is approved in both chambers and sets the overall spending caps that the appropriators use as a guide when developing spending allocations for individual programs. While the budget committees are grappling over spending ceilings, the appropriations subcommittees hold hearings with agency heads and other stakeholders of federal programs to discuss how and why programs should receive increased, decreased or level funding. Conference and Finalization If the bills pass each chamber before August recess, then during recess, staff is busy ironing out differences between the House and Senate appropriations bills. When Congress reconvenes in September, they vote and finalize the bills, and the legislation is signed by the president be -fore the fiscal year ends on September 30. Continuing resolutions In most years, the process does not run as smoothly as the steps indicate above. Appropriations bills are rarely finalized by the September 30 deadline. The bills can be stalled in the committee for various reasons. Typically, we see Congress adopting a continuing resolution by September 30. This measure allows programs to continue to be funded at current levels until the appropriations bills are finalized. CTE advocates can be influential during all stages of the process. It is important that you contact your Members of Congress multiple times throughout the year to highlight the need to increase CTE funding. ACTE will send an Action Alert to the membership during key times urging you to contact your Members of Congress. Jamie baxter is advocacy manager at ACTE. She can be contacted at You can read more about ACTE’s policy activities and the latest happenings in Washington, D.C., on ACTE’s CTE Policy Watch blog. Check it out today at www. . Summer: Appropriators Mark Up Spending Bills The summer is a heated time for the appropriations process. During these months, the appropriators begin to mark up the appropriations bills. There are 12 appropriations bills, and, therefore, 12 subcommittees. Career and technical education (CTE) programs are mostly housed in the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations package. Once the bills are finalized in subcommittee, they move to the full appropriations committee for passage, and then to the House or Senate chamber’s floor for final approval. This is usually where bills stall. But, in a perfect year, they are finalized by August recess. Spring: Budget Committee Works on Resolution and Appropriations Committees Begin Hearings The House and Senate each begins its work on the federal budget in March. 12 Techniques Februar y 2011

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