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On April 10, the House passed its budget resolution (H.Con.Res. 96), which sets the overall federal spending level for fiscal year (FY) 2015, by a margin of 219-205. The budget resolution, authored by House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) and passed largely along party lines, would slash funding for education, research, infrastructure, job training and other critical programs by 30 percent over the next decade, bringing funding for these programs to a historic low.
Imposes Time Limits, Work Requirements, Consolidation and Cuts to Pell
As with previous proposals, the Ryan budget imposes new time limits and work requirements on recipients of federal means-tested benefits, while simultaneously proposing billions of dollars in cuts to the federal education and workforce programs that would help those individuals achieve self-sufficiency.
The Ryan budget endorses the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Learning (SKILLS) Act (H.R. 803), legislation to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), which would consolidate 35 federally-funded education and training programs—including WIA formula and national funds, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Employment and Training (SNAP E&T), Wagner-Peyser Employment Services, and others—into a single fund. Chairman Ryan has repeatedly cited program consolidation under the SKILLS Act to justify deep workforce development funding cuts. National Skills Coalition opposes the SKILLS Act.
The budget resolution also includes cuts to Pell grants and other student aid programs. The resolution would cap the maximum Pell award at its current amount ($5,730 per year), and finance the program with discretionary dollars only—instead of a combination of mandatory and discretionary funds as is the current practice—making the program more vulnerable to funding cuts in future years. It would also eliminate Pell aid for working students who are supporting themselves while going to school less than half-time—an ironic stance for a member of Congress that continually talks about the intrinsic value of work.
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 contingent on participation in work or job training—while simultaneously calling for cuts to those same job training programs.
Creates Unprecedented Deep Deficits in Core Programs
In addition to setting spending levels for the upcoming fiscal year, budget resolutions must set spending levels for at least four subsequent fiscal years. The Ryan budget sets spending levels not only for FY 2015, but also for FY 2016-2024. Between 2016 and 2024, the budget resolution would reduce investments in non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs by $1.3 trillion. If these cuts were implemented, investments in these critical programs as a share of the economy would be 40 percent lower than at any other time in the last half-century.
The result of these cuts would be unprecedented new deficits in critical areas such as medical and scientific research, infrastructure, and a skilled workforce. For instance, the budget proposes a 15 percent cut to NDD programs in FY 2016, which would mean that in a single year, more than 3.5 million fewer individuals would receive Department of Labor-funded employment and training services.
Budget Will Not Move Beyond the House
The budget resolution is not signed by the President and does not become law. Rather, each year both the House and Senate budget committees develop and pass budget resolutions through their respective chambers. The committees then come together to resolve differences between their two budgets to produce a bicameral conference report, which is what the appropriators will work off of in developing the 12 appropriations bills. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (BBA) set overall spending levels for FY 2015, so the committees will not go to conference over the budget this year. Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) has already announced that her committee will not produce a FY 2015 budget resolution.
Though Chairman Ryan’s budget will not move beyond the House, it is still an important document because it lays out the House majority’s priorities for funding the federal government in the years to come. National Skills Coalition strongly opposes efforts to further reduce federal investments in job training and postsecondary education, as they would significantly impede workers’ and employers’ ability to access skills training and meet their skilled workforce needs.