Federal cuts would contribute to state budget shortfall
H.R.1, a proposal recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, proposes to cut non-security discretionary funding by $64 billion. What does this mean to Washington state? While the final outcome remains to be seen, and still needs to be considered by the U.S. Senate, it is estimated that our state stands to lose over $1 billion in federal funds for essential public structures such as health care, job training, education and transportation infrastructure. Any additional federal cuts would be devastating to our state as we work to recover from the Great Recession. State lawmakers have already cut $5 billion from the state budget over the last couple of years, and the state faces a further shortfall of $5 billion for the next biennium.
Although the federal fiscal year has been underway for almost five months, Congress has yet to enact full-year appropriations and has instead been operating on a continuing resolution which maintains current spending at 2010 levels. The continuing resolution was set to expire this Friday, March 4th, but today Congress approved a two-week extension. Congress is under pressure to enact a spending plan quickly to continue federal funding for the remainder of the federal fiscal year which ends September 30, 2011.
The cuts under the proposed spending plan could come quickly and be felt deeply here in Washington state. As the Legislature grapples with a $5 billion shortfall for the next biennium, the loss of federal funds would come as a major setback. The reductions under H.R 1 would further threaten our widely-shared values: Education and Opportunity, Healthy People and Environment, Thriving Communities, and Economic Security.
According to analysis conducted by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the following are examples of cuts to programs and services that would impact Washington state:
Education and Opportunity:
- Grants to low- and moderate-income undergraduate students to help pay for college (Pell grants) would be cut by $82 million, impacting 138,000 students.
- Kindergarten through grade 12 funding for special education, school improvement, and schools in low-income communities would be cut by a total of $27.2 million.
- Head Start, which provides comprehensive early childhood development services for at-risk children ages zero to five, would immediately be cut $16 million, enough to serve roughly 2,000 children*.
Healthy People and Environment:
- Mental health and substance abuse services would be cut by $3.2 million.
- Funding to help communities pay for sewage and wastewater treatment, water clean-up projects, and for ensuring safe drinking water would be cut by $38 million.
- Crime prevention through funding of law enforcement, prosecution and courts, prevention and education, corrections, and drug treatment and enforcement would be cut by $2.6 million.
- Funding through the Community Development Block Grant for homeless programs, social services, and improvements to senior and youth service facilities would be reduced by $41.6 million.
Funds for states to provide job training, job search, and employment assistance to low-income job-seekers through the Workforce Investment Act would be cut by $20.2 million.
Our state cannot afford more cuts to the very services that support our economy and populations most at-risk during difficult economic times. Federal funds are vital to our economic recovery.
* Source for Head Start estimates: Center for Law and Social Policy and National Head Start Association.
For other figures: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.