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Budget Resolutions: What Are They and Why Do They Matter?
March 22, 2012
As you may have seen, the House released a budget plan this week that shrinks the deficit, cuts taxes, and reduces spending on social programs. What you may not have realized, however, is how much this plan would affect the fiscal year (FY) 2013 funding process for key programs for homeless and at-risk people, including HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, and homeless veteran programs.
This plan – officially called a “budget resolution” – is a regular and important part of the federal budget process. It is not law but sets out Congress’ budgetary plans for the year. The most important aspect of the budget resolution is that it lays out the overall amount of funding that will be available to the Appropriations Committee for its annual funding bills. This overall amount is then eventually split up among countless federal programs, including homeless assistance programs.
In theory, the House and Senate should agree on a budget resolution by April 15 of each year. This often does not happen, though. In fact, the Senate does not plan to pass a budget resolution at all this year, since last year’s big debt deal included an agreement about how much funding would be available to the Appropriations Committee this year.
However, the House still plans to pass a budget resolution this year – one that goes beyond last year’s agreement in cutting overall funding for the annual funding bills. The budget resolution released earlier this week includes 2 percent, or $19 billion, less overall for the Appropriations Committee this year than Congress agreed to in the debt deal. The House budget resolution will disproportionately draw those cuts from domestic spending (which include key safety net and affordable housing programs) instead of from defense spending.
The end result of all of this is that the House will be writing annual funding bills that spend less money overall than the Senate’s bills do – especially for domestic programs. This, in turn, will affect how much each program is able to receive in the two chambers’ versions of the bills. And it will make final negotiations between the House and Senate for compromise funding levels a bit more complicated.
We do know one thing for sure, though: Despite the differences in the House and Senate, the Appropriations Committees are expected to move more quickly than usual and release and vote on these bills as soon as next month – which means we need your help right away!
It’s incredibly important to get involved in our FY 2013 McKinney, RHYA, and veterans advocacy campaigns – and the sooner, the better! Members of Congress are starting to make funding decisions, and we want to make sure that ending homelessness is a priority for them.