Economic Security for All at Stake in FY18 L-HHS Budget

This statement can be attributed to CLASP Executive Director Olivia Golden.

Washington, D.C.—Today, a U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee is voting on the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (L-HHS) funding bill for fiscal year 2018 (FY18). The bill proposed by the Appropriations Committee majority in the House allocates a total of $156 billion, which is $5 billion below an already-insufficient FY17 baseline. These deep cuts would be cruel and devastating to programs that support the economic security of children, families, and individuals of modest means, while also slashing investments in America’s future.

Taken together, the cuts of $5 billion are another assault on ordinary Americans, particularly low-income children, families, and young people whose success depends on access to affordable higher education, job training, quality public education, and child care. The L-HHS cuts would also jeopardize enforcement of labor standards that protect workers, especially those in low-wage jobs.

The cuts proposed in this bill are on top of the devastation to health care for children, families, seniors, people with disabilities, and working adults proposed in House and Senate bills to repeal the Affordable Care Act and slash Medicaid. And they are also on top of deep cuts to core nutrition programs and other programs to support basic living standards that have been signaled by the House leadership but are in another part of the budget (so-called mandatory spending).

Programs with significant cuts include Pell Grants, job training and employment services, refugee programs, and many others. These cuts come on the heels of very large declines over the last decade, such as cuts of nearly 40 percent to workforce development programs and 32 percent cuts to career and technical education. While some programs—like the Child Care and Development Block Grant and Head Start—are slated for very modest increases, these small increments do not come close to addressing unmet need or fully funding bipartisan improvements in the programs, let alone offsetting other cuts that support the same services and the same families.

The proposed cuts would also destabilize state budgets. For example, when federal funds to states are cut for child care, job training, technical education, workforce development, and social services, states must find money elsewhere to meet the needs of their residents. When these sharp decreases are added to the devastating cuts to state budgets included in the House and Senate’s proposed health care repeal, the consequences for state funding of core programs like K-12 and higher education could go far beyond these areas.

These cuts are all in the service of an overall budget plan intended to give tax cuts to the wealthiest people and corporations while also pouring money into a mass deportation plan and additional jails and prisons. Looking across all programs, the House Republicans would cut non-defense spending even below the already damagingly low levels allowed under the “sequestration caps” from the 2011 Budget Control Act, which have ratcheted down spending each year, while increasing defense spending above the caps. The harmful consequences of the proposed L-HHS bill could be averted by raising the sequestration caps and maintaining the principle of parity between defense and non-defense discretionary programs.

This morning, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its analysis of President Trump’s budget proposal, which quantified his draconian cuts to people of modest means and massive tax cuts for the wealthy. What’s clear from both the L-HHS bill and the CBO analysis is that Republican leaders in Congress and the president are largely in sync, given the depth of cuts that both are proposing to slash in crucial supports for American communities.

Today’s subcommittee vote is one of many steps toward the federal budget for FY18, which begins on October 1. As Congress wrestles with these budget decisions throughout the summer and fall, we urge all members of the House and Senate to reject the harmful vision reflected in these L-HHS cuts, the devastating destruction of Medicaid in proposed health bills, and other reported proposals to damage core federal programs that support basic living standards and economic opportunity for ordinary Americans.

These disinvestments are truly short-sighted, as they destroy lives today while also harming vital programs that strengthen our nation’s future, helping today’s children, youth, and adults get a secure start in life, get an education, and move up on the job through postsecondary education and job training.