Vastly Different Proposals Will Decide Future of Legal Services Corporation Funding

Feb 04, 2011

By Linda E. Perle

Late Friday, February 11, House Republicans released a new version of their proposed budget for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2011.  With only seven months left in the current fiscal year and a looming deadline of March 4 for Congressional action, the GOP is seeking an additional $10 million in cuts to the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) on top of the $60 million already proposed to be cut from the current Continuing Resolution.  With the additional $10 million, the proposed budget cuts would bring the overall LSC FY 2011 appropriation down to $350 million - a 17% cut from the current funding level of $420 million.  It also represents an $85 million cut from the level that the President sought in his 2011 budget request.

In their rush to judgment, the GOP budget would take the full $70 million cut out of Basic Field grants which provide support for basic legal assistance to legal aid programs across the country, rather than spread the pain throughout the LSC budget.  So the Management and Grants Oversight, Technology Initiative Grants, Office of the Inspector General, and Loan Repayment budgets remain at the same level as last year, and Basic Field grants alone would have to absorb the devastating cuts. Basic Field funding would be cut to $324.4 million for FY 2011.

The Senate has not announced its plans for the remainder of the FY 2011 budget year.  With the current Continuing Resolution expiring March 4, 2011, Congress must act in the next few weeks to fund the Federal government and avoid a shutdown similar to that the country experienced in 1995.

Under President Obama's FY 2012 budget released this morning, LSC would fare much better.  The President is seeking $450 million for the program for FY 2012, an increase of $30 million over the current LSC budget and a $100 million increase over the proposed House GOP budget for 2011.  The President's budget would allocate $420,150,000 for Basic Field, $19,500,000 for Management and Grants Oversight, $4,350,000 for the Office of the Inspector General, $5 million for TIG, and $1 million for loan repayment.  As in the past two years, the President's budget request would eliminate the application of the restrictions to a grantee's non-LSC funds.  It also continues the removal of the restriction on attorneys' fees that was made in the 2010 appropriation and would eliminate the restriction on class actions.

CLASP will continue to work aggressively with the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, the American Bar Association and other organizations in our coalition to oppose the draconian cut proposed by the House Republicans for FY 2011 and to secure increased funding for FY 2012.

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