House and Senate Agree to Appropriations for Remainder of Fiscal Year

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House and Senate Agree to Appropriations for Remainder of Fiscal Year

On Tuesday, January 14, House and Senate negotiators announced an agreement on a $1.1 trillion spending plan that would fund government operations through the remainder of the federal fiscal year.  Spending authority for the federal government was scheduled to expire on the very next day.


Congress still needs a few extra days to finalize a compromise bill, so a temporary continuing resolution was passed that extends budget authority through Saturday, January 18th.  There is no anticipation that the deal will break down, but rather that both sides are working diligently to reach an agreement in a few days.


In an indication that Republican leadership no longer wishes to risk another spending show-down with Democrats or the White House, the 1,582-page bill would keep funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) at sequester levels, which has enraged some Tea Party conservative types as not making the cuts they demanded.  Funding would restore cuts to Head Start, partially restore cuts to medical research and job training programs, and also give all federal workers a 1 percent raise.  Sadly, the agreement does not include an extension of unemployment benefits for the longer termed unemployed.


For the HIV community, the funding levels are bittersweet.  Funding for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program would be $2.32 billion, an increase of $70 million over sequestration.  However, this is still $24 million less than the FY13 appropriation amount, which in turn is less than the year before.  HIV prevention at the CDC will be funded at $761 million. Once again, this amount is an increase of $20 million over the sequestration level, but also a reduction in funding from FY13 which was $785 million.  The Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) program will be appropriated at $330 million, which is $15 million above sequestration levels but reduced $2 million from FY 2013.   A cut in a program’s funding that is not as drastic as was expected could only be considered a “win” in this environment.


The Congressional leadership of both parties and the White House released statements praising the deal.  Not everyone was happy though, as some conservative Tea Party Congressional members quickly attacked the appropriations agreement. Speaker Boehner is relying on Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi to cobble together enough votes along with the majority of his own caucus to guarantee passage.  


Does this hail, in the midst of an upcoming election year, a new “era” of compromise?  A new debt extension deal (equivalent to an increased credit line) needs to be agreed upon this year, which will give Republicans another opportunity to challenge the President’s priorities.  It does appear though, that both sides of the aisle have learned that nobody wins when hard lines are drawn and nobody is willing to budge.  Let’s see how long this lasts.


Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address


It has become very clear that Governor Cuomo preferred  big, ambitious, broad based themes for his State of the State address.  His first year was all about Medicaid and the announcement of the creation of a Medicaid Redesign Team.  His second year was all about education reform.  This year his theme was very much razor-focused on taxes, particularly corporation taxes, and upstate economic development.  Much of his address was focused on proposals to reduce corporate income taxes and promote tourism upstate.   In a nod to Mayor de Blasio, the Governor did demand that universal pre-K be made available statewide, even if there was no commitment on where the funding for such an initiative would come from.


Among the HIV community, however, there had been a  great deal of anticipation that Governor Cuomo would announce as part of his State of the State address a new initiative to more aggressively address the HIV epidemic in New York.  Behind the scenes, long before the State of the State, HIV advocates had been meeting with senior staff in the Cuomo administration to educate them on the very real possibility that if the Governor put as much effort into Medicaid redesign as he did into the HIV epidemic, we truly could halt the epidemic in New York.  Despite some encouraging signs, alas, that did not materialize.   HIV was not mentioned once in his address.  


HIV advocates are now hoping for something to be made available and announced as part of the Executive Budget, which should be released around January 21.  Stay tuned.