March 23, 2018 Federal Legislative Report

Fiscal Year 2018 Funding Finalized

Congress wrapped up funding decisions for fiscal year (FY) 2018 nearly halfway through the fiscal year.  The compromise bill includes much needed investments for public services and does not include many of the harmful policy riders that were expected. In addition, the final package rejects President Trump’s proposed cuts of $54 billion to domestic public services. Instead, Congress increased investments by $63 billion for domestic spending. Defense spending was also increased by $70 billion, as part of the earlier two-year budget agreement.

President Saunders noted: “I am pleased that this bill rejects and reverses the deep and harmful cuts proposed by the Trump administration. It makes important investments in health care, education, and infrastructure. It also staves off extreme attacks on labor rights, immigrant rights, and other priorities of working families. Though the bill is far from perfect, for the first time in years, investments in working families will move in a positive direction.”

These domestic funding increases are important, but they do not make up for the inadequate investments in programs that have been restricted by tight budget caps since 2011. On the plus side, the bill includes substantial increases to child care, public education, higher education, census planning, opioid abuse prevention and treatment, transportation, and housing.

Policy Riders

AFSCME and our allies fought back over 160 poison-pill policy riders that threatened workers’ rights to organize, workplace safety protections, sanctuary cities, consumer protections, environmental protections, and more. Specifically, efforts to weaken the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB); to add so-called “Tribal Sovereignty” language that aimed to exempt businesses from adhering to National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) worker protections; and to block, delay or otherwise undermine the “fiduciary rule” to protect workers’ retirement savings, were all rejected. Additionally, attempts to expand the H-2B visa program were thwarted, extending only the current program through the end of 2018 which also includes a provision that grants the DHS Secretary discretionary powers to increase the cap if “need” is determined. The bill does not include the president’s request to build a wall at the border with Mexico. Instead it provides $1.6 billion in border security funds, including funds to fix existing fencing and levee structures.

The ACA and DACA

The bill fails to address certain issues requiring immediate action, including efforts to stabilize the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by stopping the Trump administration’s action to sabotage and undermine the individual health insurance market. Without legislative action the administration’s efforts will continue to raise premiums and out-of-pocket costs in the individual market.

The omnibus also falls short by failing to provide a fair and permanent solution that protects Dreamers from deportation and creates a pathway to citizenship.

The Tip Rule Agreement

The bill includes a compromise that would prohibit employers from keeping employees’ tips and allows workers to sue employers for stolen wages with damages. While this is a step in the right direction, some lawmakers oppose the compromise out of concerns that it would allow employers to decrease workers’ pay and replace it with tips.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

A six-month FAA extension gives Congress until the end of fiscal 2018 to work out a long-term solution and omits earlier efforts to advance privatization.

Funding for Key Issues:

Department of Education

The bill provides a $3.9 billion increase (6 percent), for Department of Education including:

– Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (Title IV), a source of funding for school counselors and school safety, would see a $700 million increase for a total of $1.1 billion. This program had been targeted for elimination by the president.

– Title I state grants are increased $300 million, to $15.8 billion.

– Title II grants are level funded at $2.1 billion. This program had been targeted for elimination by the president.

– IDEA grants to states are increased $275 million to $12.3 billion.

– 21st Century Community Learning Centers are increased $20 million to $1.2 billion for before and after care available to low-income students. This program had been targeted for elimination by the president.

– Increases the maximum Pell grant by $175 to a total of $6,095.

– Head Start is increased $610 million to $9.9 billion.

– Child Care and Development Block Grant is increased $2.4 billion, to $5.2 billion.

– Secure Rural Schools (SRS) had expired, but received a two-year authorization for $426 million over 2 years with $220 million retroactively for FY 2017, and $206 million for FY 2018 in mandatory funds.

Public Health

The bill provides an additional $3 billion in programs that help states, tribes, local governments, nonprofits, and faith-based groups prevent, treat, and stop the opioid abuse epidemic.

Department of Labor (DoL)

The bill provides a slight increase in DoL funding, (1 percent), as opposed to a 20 percent cut, as proposed in the president’s budget. Increases include:

  • Employment Training Administration (ETA) is increased by $44 million for a total of $10 billion, including $2.8 billion for job training grants to states, $89.5 million for YouthBuild, and $145 million for apprenticeship grants.
  • Job Corps is increased by $15.5 million to $1.7 billion.

The Census

The bill increases Census funding by $1.344 billion to prepare for the upcoming Census, a $1.13 billion increase over the President’s request.

The Social Security Administration (SSA)

The bill increases SSA funding by $480 million, including $280 million for IT modernization and $100 million for reducing the disability hearings backlog.

Housing

  • Public Housing Operating Fund is slightly increased by 3 percent to $4.55 billion but is significantly below the full funding level that Public Housing Authorities need to operate America’s 1.2 million public housing units.
  • Public Housing Capital Fund is increased by 42 percent to $2.75 billion, which will provide additional funds to repair and modernize public housing. This is far short of roughly $40 billion needed to reduce the enormous backlog and to ensure units are safe, decent, and affordable.
  • Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program’s cap increases the maximum number of public housing units from 225,000 to 455,000 which are eligible for conversion and delays expiration of the RAD program to 2024. AFSCME opposes raising this cap and delaying RAD’s expiration.

East-West Center

The bill appropriates $16.7 million, the same amount as last year, for the East-West Center, which is a congressionally authorized non-profit in Hawaii that employs AFSCME HGEA members.

Infrastructure

Highway spending is increased by $2.5 billion, including a $1 billion increase for TIGER grants, a $232 million increase for transit, and a $305 million increase for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG).

Election Security

State election officials would get $380 million in technology grants to upgrade their equipment to ward off digital attacks.

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