Legislative Update: Appropriations, Deficit Reduction, American Jobs Act, School Modernization

House Passes Continuing Resolution

Late last night, the House passed a continuing resolution (CR) that would fund the government until November 18. The bill passed in a vote of 219 – 203, after failing to pass earlier in the week. The bill proposes a 1.5 percent across-the-board cut to domestic and defense programs, bringing the total FY12 appropriations to $1.043 trillion. The bill now moves to the Senate.

President Releases Deficit Reduction Plan

Earlier this week President Obama unveiled a plan that would reduce the federal deficit by $2 trillion over the next 10 years. The plan consists primarily of tax increases on those making more than $250,000 a year, as well as $580 billion in cuts to mandatory benefit programs, including $248 billion from Medicare. The plan also factors in $1 trillion in savings over 10 years if troops are withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan. Notably absent from this plan are additional cuts to education programs. Clearly, the President understands the importance of education in stabilizing our economy.

While this plan has very little chance of passing the Republican-controlled House, the Administration hopes that it will influence the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction which has been tasked with finding $1.5 trillion in savings over 10 years. In addition to reducing the deficit, savings from this plan would help pay for the American Jobs Act – the President’s job creation package.

Republicans Respond to the American Jobs Act

Last week, House Republican leaders sent a memo to fellow Republicans which outlined their views, both positive and negative, on the President’s jobs plan. Unfortunately, Republicans said it would be “harder to find common ground” on some of the aspects in the package that relate to education.

Republicans voiced concern over the provision that would allocate $30 billion for preventing public sector layoffs, including teachers. Referring to a similar stimulus package aimed at preventing layoffs in 2009, the memo stated, “This band-aid approach masked over the true fiscal problems facing states and local governments. Some jurisdictions used the funds to provide one-time raises; others retained employees for a short-period of time, only to lay them off later.” The memo also took issue with the federal government funding school construction, stating, “School construction has historically been a state and local function.”

Bills Introduced

American Jobs Act

Senator Harry Reid (NV) has introduced the President’s jobs bill as S.1549, American Jobs Act. The Senate is expected to take up the bill on the floor in October. However, if it does not pass, the Senate will break it up into smaller pieces of legislation. Republicans in the House are also expected to take up the bill in pieces.

Fix America’s Schools Today (FAST) Act

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (CT) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (OH) have announced the Fix America’s Schools Today (FAST) Act. This bill covers the school modernization aspect of the President’s jobs plan. “The FAST Act will create good, well-paying jobs now, strengthening our economy while providing our school districts with the resources they need to make needed improvements to their school facilities.” Rep. DeLauro said.

The FAST Act would provide $25 billion to renovate and modernize public elementary and secondary schools. Forty percent of the funds would be allocated to the 100 largest high-need school districts in the U.S. and the remaining 60 percent would be split among state departments of education to administer through competitive grants. An additional $5 billion would be given to states to modernize community colleges.

Nancy Conneely, Public Policy Manager

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