House budget proposes workforce cuts.

March 20, 2012

On March 20, House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) introduced his Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 budget resolution, which sets overall federal spending levels for House appropriators as they begin working on appropriations bills later this spring. As with last year’s budget proposal, the Ryan budget recommends imposing new time limits and work requirements on recipients of federal means-tested benefits, while at the same time proposing billions of dollars in cuts to the federal education and workforce programs that would help those individuals achieve self-sufficiency.

The Ryan budget would cap overall discretionary spending in FY 2013 at $1.028 trillion, roughly $20 billion below the discretionary limits agreed to as part of last summer’s Budget Control Act (BCA). The House Republican’s budget would increase funding for defense programs by a reported $8 billion compared to last year’s levels, with the impact of these additional cuts largely borne by non-defense programs.

According to tables included in the draft resolution, roughly $16.4 billion in proposed cuts would come from education, training, employment, and social services programs. While the resolution does not include details of specific cuts at the program level, the budget “blueprint” released by the committee chairman includes language that clearly indicates that funding for workforce programs and Pell Grants are being targeted. The blueprint states that the budget “advances reforms to increase job-training outcomes” by “calling for the consolidation of duplicative federal job-training programs into a streamlined workforce development system with fewer funding streams that provide accountable, targeted career scholarship programs.” In addition, the Ryan budget “puts Pell on a sustainable path by limiting the growth of financial aid and focusing it on low-income students who need it the most.”

The Ryan budget also hints at new oversight and accountability measures for job training programs and Pell, recommending that these programs track “the type of training provided, the cost per student, employment after training, and whether or not trainees are working in the field for which they were trained.” Programs would also be required to track participation in federal assistance programs—such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps)—for up to five years following program exit.

In addition to these workforce proposals, the Ryan budget also recommends major policy changes to key programs serving low-income individuals. For example, the budget proposes converting SNAP into a block grant to states, and making aid continent on participation in work or job training—while simultaneously calling for cuts to those same job training programs.

It is expected that the House Budget Committee will mark up the draft resolution tomorrow, with a floor vote in that chamber to follow soon after. The resolution has no chance of being adopted by the Democratically-controlled Senate—Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has argued that a budget resolution is unnecessary because FY 2013 spending levels were already agreed to under the BCA—but the resolution does serve as the starting point for the House heading into this year’s appropriations cycle. With final FY 2013 appropriations likely to fall somewhere between the House resolution levels and the BCA levels, and with education and training programs making up such a significant portion of the proposed House “savings,” it is likely that these programs will continue to be vulnerable in the months ahead.

National Skills Coalition strongly opposes efforts to further reduce federal investments in job training and postsecondary education, and we look forward to working with our national, state, and local partners to help policymakers understand the importance of these programs for jobseekers, workers, youth, and businesses. We will continue to update the field on federal budget and appropriations developments that impact education and training as new information becomes available.