President Obama unveiled Tuesday morning his budget proposal for the federal government for fiscal year 2015. While the reality is that this budget blueprint will never be enacted as both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate will offer counter-proposals and ultimately pass appropriations legislation, it does help clarify what President Obama’s priorities will be during this congressional midterm election year.
Overall, President Obama’s proposed budget would spend $3.9 trillion and result in a $564 billion budget deficit, down from a $649 billion deficit in fiscal year 2014. It would increase spending for transportation infrastructure, invest in “cutting edge research” on topics ranging from human health, climate change, agriculture and more, expand early childhood education, increase tax credits for the working poor, invest in job training and more.
“What I offer in this Budget is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class—all while continuing to improve the Nation’s long-run fiscal position,” said President Obama in his budget message.
What’s in it for agriculture and rural economies? There are likely many a detail I’ve overlooked, but here are a few highlights:
- While there was no specific proposed dollar amount outlined, the overall budget allocated $7.9 billion to EPA. The top priority for the agency was supporting the President’s climate action plan, which includes three overarching themes: “cutting carbon pollution; preparing the national for the impacts of climate change that cannot be avoided; and leading international efforts to address climate change.”
- Calls on EPA and USDA to build on “existing collaboration…to improve water quality across the United States.”
- $300 million, the amount needed to leverage existing resources to initiate construction in 2015, of the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kan., that would replace the Plum Island facility to study large animal zoonotic diseases and develop countermeasures to protect our citizens and agricultural economy from future threats.
- $124 million to support, expand and enhance E-Verify.
- $150 million for a new program to “redesign high schools to focus on providing students with challenging, relevant learning experiences” and encourage partnerships between high schools and colleges, employers and others to help prepare high school students to succeed in today’s economy.
- $23 billion in discretionary funds to USDA to invest in some of the following:
- $58 million for a new economic development grant program designed to target small and emerging private businesses and cooperatives in rural areas;
- Doubles current funding for broadband grants, which is expected to support 16 rural communities;
- $75 million to support three multidisciplinary institutes, with one dedicated to bio-based manufacturing, one to focus on antimicrobial resistance research; and the third on crop science and pollinator health;
- More than $600 million in other agriculture-related research initiatives;
- Includes proposals to “reduce subsidies to farmers and crop insurance companies” to “reasonable levels.”
So what’s next in the federal budgetary process? Both the House and Senate will have an opportunity to question administration officials about their (the President’s) budget requests. Then, both chambers will draft their own budget resolutions. The chambers will then go to a conference committee, resolve their differences and pass a final budget resolution by April 15. The budget resolution and its accompanying report will serve as the official blueprint for Congress as it allocates federal dollars during the fiscal year.
That’s how it’s supposed to work anyway.
In reality, it often takes longer – sometimes Congress does not pass a budget resolution at all. In fact, the Senate went nearly 1,450 days without a budget resolution until finally agreeing to one on March 23, 2013. In recent years, rather than going through the “on the books” appropriations process, Congress has operated under continuing resolutions to fund the federal government.
So again, if the President’s budget will never become law, what’s the point of the whole process? It builds on the President’s messages outlined in the annual State of the Union address and outlines priorities for the upcoming year. For some, it provides reason to get to work and support the administration. For others, it’s merely a heads up reminder about potential challenges that lie ahead.
How about you – what are your thoughts on President Obama’s latest budget proposal?