Notes from Obama administration budget briefings

The Obama administration presented five telephone budget briefings today (May 7) on highlights of the President’s complete budget for fiscal year 2010, which begins October 1, 2009. In February, the President sent Congress a preliminary budget, but today the administration sent Congress its complete budget with specific spending proposals as well as a list of programs where the administration proposes to terminate or consolidate funding in the coming year.

The release of the President’s complete budget, along with the Congressional budget resolution conference report that passed both the U.S. House and Senate last week, clears the way for Congressional appropriations committees in the House and Senate to begin making specific decisions about how much money will actually be spent for a broad range of federal programs and activities in the next fiscal year.

The five subject areas covered in today’s briefings included education, housing and homelessness, energy, agriculture, and issues concerning the faith community.

These notes do not address every program that may fall under the subject categories. Instead, they report the administration’s description of  what they consider to be the highlights in their budget. For additional information or if you have questions about a specific program in the budget, you may email the White House Office of Public Liaison at public@who.eop.gov.  Here are the highlights of what we learned today.

Education – The President’s budget proposes $47.6 billion for the Department of Education in fiscal year 2010, an increase of $1.3 billion above what was in this year’s budget. The new administration’s budget for education focuses upon improving teacher effectiveness, turning around struggling schools, giving pre-schoolers the skills they need to prepare for kindergarten, and promoting innovation and research.

The President’s budget includes:

  • $1.5 billion for Title I School Improvement Grants to give states and school districts the resources to create and implement plans for improvement, corrective action or restructuring. These funds are in addition to the $3 billion previously appropriated in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
  • $517 million for the Teacher Incentive Fund to improve the education workforce, with an emphasis on rewarding those principals and teachers and other school personnel who raise student achievement, close achievement gaps and work in hard-to-staff schools. This funding is in addition to $200 million in the ARRA and $100 million in the 2009 budget.
  • $500 million for Title I Early Childhood Grants to encourage school districts to spend money under the ARRA to start or expand preschool programs.
  • $300 million for the Early Learning Challenge Fund competitive grants to states.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) receives flat funding in the President’s  fiscal year 2010 budget after receiving $12.2 billion in the ARRA.

For higher education, the administration noted that in February, the maximum award under the Pell Grant program was increased to $5,500 for fiscal year 2010. The administration has also proposed that Pell Grants would increase by the rate of inflation plus one percent in future years.

The President’s budget proposes to abolish funding for 12 education programs that the administration contends are ineffective based upon research evidence. Note that while funding would be abolished, some of the functions of these programs may be merged into other existing programs. A few of the programs that the administration would stop funding include Even Start, an early education program, mentoring, character education, civic education and the National Institute for Learning.

For further information on the Department of Education budget, go to www.ed.gov/

Housing and Homelessness – Highlights in the budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) include:

  • An infusion of $1 billion into the Affordable Housing Trust.
  • A new $250 million Choice Neighborhoods Initiative to revitalize high-poverty neighborhoods through investments in distressed public and assisted housing and closer linkages with school reform and early childhood interventions.
  • $4.5 billion for the Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG), a $550 million increase in funding to fulfill the President’s promise to fully fund the program. The President also proposes to update the CDBG formula that is more than thirty years old.
  • $150 million for the new Sustainable Communities Initiative to spur better coordination between urban and rural efforts to integrate transportation, housing and land use planning in ways that maximize choices for residents and businesses, lowers transportation costs, saves energy and improves the quality of life.
  • A new $100 million Energy Innovation Fund to encourage private sector investments in the energy efficiency of the nation’s housing stock.

The President’s budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development proposes consolidating or eliminating 27 programs. For further information on the HUD budget, go to www.hud.gov/

Energy – The President’s budget for fiscal year 2010 proposes $26.4 billion for the Department of Energy (DOE). The DOE intends to promote investments in secure, clean, safe and reliable forms of energy, the creation of new jobs, and a commitment to address climate change. The President has set a goal to reduce greenhouse gases by 80 percent by the year 2050. Earlier this year, the Department of Energy received $38.7 billion as its portion of the ARRA.

Highlights of the DOE budget include:

  • $250 million in additional grants and loan guarantees for renewable energy projects.
  • $133 million in new funding to study the effect of climate change on wildlife and ecosystems.
  • Creation of a new Energy Innovation Fund to drive the creation of energy-efficient housing markets and catalyzing lending through a partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
  • Cuts more than $200 million in oil and gas company research that these companies can and do fund on their own.

For further information on the Department of Energy budget, go to www.energy.gov/

Agriculture – USDA states that the President’s budget reflects his concern about the health and welfare of children and providing access to more nutritious food, expanding the capacity of farms and ranches to produce alternative forms of energy and to transition away from fossil fuels. The President’s budget includes $450 million in program terminations, consolidations or reductions and also a proposed $250,000 cap on price support payments paid to farmers.

Highlights cited include:

  • An increase of $900 million for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition Program. This proposed increased in funding builds upon $19 billion that was appropriated in the ARRA for increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly known as Food Stamps) benefits that average 13.6 percent or roughly $80 each month for a family of four.
  • $10 billion for the School Lunch Program.
  • $1 billion for increased food safety inspections.

For further information on the Department of Agriculture budget, go to www.usda.gov/

Issues Concerning the Faith Community – This briefing reiterated many of the same points from the previous briefings but placed particular emphasis upon the fact that the President’s budget sets aside a $634 billion reserve fund for health care reform legislation that is currently being developed in both the House and Senate.

Joshua DuBois, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, noted the President’s significant proposed expansion of national service programs, particularly AmeriCorps. The budget builds upon the recently-enacted “Serve America Act” by proposing $1.1 billion for national service programs in fiscal year 2010. This represents a 29 percent increase over current year funding and also marks the first time where the President’s budget proposes over $1 billion for national service programs. The President’s proposal would fund 84,000 AmeriCorps positions and would increase the AmeriCorps education benefit for the first time since 1993.

Over the coming days and weeks, we will be analyzing the President’s budget to determine its impact on Minnesota. We will, of course, share our findings with you here on our blog.

-Steve Francisco

About Steve Francisco

Steve Francisco is the former federal policy analyst for the Minnesota Budget Project.
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