When Congress returns from its August break, the House is expected to vote on their plan for 2018 appropriations that includes cuts to non-defense discretionary (NDD) funding, as well as deep cuts to entitlement programs. The proposed cuts to NDD programs would harm our state’s ability to improve education, support children and families, make our communities safer and healthier and develop the workforce and economy.
As noted previously, the proposed House appropriations for NDD programs would be 17 percent below what was appropriated in 2010 after adjusting for inflation and 22 percent once growth in the population is taken into account. Here are some examples highlighted in a recent Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) report of what the effects of these funding levels would be:
Elementary and Secondary Education
Much of the $2.3 billion in proposed cuts nationally to K-12 education funding — which would make for a cumulative 20 percent cut since 2010 when accounting for inflation — come from eliminating grants to school districts that aid in recruiting, training, supporting and retaining high-quality teachers. Among other important efforts, grants fund the Kentucky Network to Transform Teaching, which aims to increase the number of highly credentialed teachers in our state.
Other cuts include reductions in funding to 21st Century Learning Centers. According to one estimate, this would mean 2,649 Kentucky students would be unable to participate in after-school programs that provide students with homework assistance and an array of activities that complement their regular academic programs. As an example, South Livingston Elementary School offers an after-school computer coding program through this federal grant. The House appropriations proposal would also eliminate funding for grants to improve literacy instruction.
While the two main basic federal grant programs for local schools would not be cut, their funding levels would be inadequate to provide needed services to students with disabilities and economically disadvantaged students. The appropriations level for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) grants would be increased by $200 million, but this is still short of what is needed just to keep up with inflation. The other main grant program, Title I, would receive no increase; Title I provides funding to more than half of all public schools for additional services and supports for disadvantaged students.
The Community Mental Health Services block grant would be cut by more than 1/4, from $563 million in 2017 to $421 million in 2018. In addition to paying for services for people without health insurance, the block grant also pays for services not covered by private insurance or Medicaid — as well as additional measures to connect people with needed care. The budget would cut this basic safety net mental health program at the same time Kentucky and the nation are suffering from a widespread opioid epidemic. Our state has been hit particularly hard and has the third highest rate of death due to drug overdose, alongside Ohio. Many with addiction problems also have some type of mental illness that needs to be treated in conjunction with their substance use disorder.
Disease Control and Prevention
The House proposal includes cuts to overall funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — a reduction of $198 million, or 2.8 percent below 2017 funding. The CDC is responsible for detecting and controlling infectious diseases, responding to emerging crises such as Zika and monitoring public health. More than half of the budget for Kentucky’s Department for Public Health is from federal sources, including a federal grant from the CDC that funds the Kentucky Women’s Cancer Screening program.
Job Training and Employment
Federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funding is an important source of job training in Kentucky. The appropriations in the House budget would cut several WIOA programs —including eliminating grants that support the expansion of apprenticeship programs and cutting by 41 percent nationally administered funding that assists workers dislocated by adverse events like plant closings and natural disasters. These cuts would have a negative impact on the Kentucky economy and could stall the state’s plans to ramp up workforce development efforts, including through apprenticeships.
Funding for Housing Choice Vouchers, which provide rental assistance to low-income seniors, people with disabilities and families with children, would be increased a little but not enough to cover the amount needed to renew all current vouchers in 2018. The proposed funding level would mean 140,000 households nationally would lose their vouchers; 1,967 vouchers are at risk in Kentucky. These cuts would worsen homelessness and make it even more difficult for low-income households struggling to make ends meet. Already three out of four eligible low-income households nationally do not receive rental aid due to funding limitations, with long waiting lists for assistance being typical. In Kentucky, there are only 57 affordable and available rental homes for every 100 extremely low-income renter households.
Federal child care assistance funding is important to the budget of Kentucky’s popular Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), which provides support to more than 26,000 low-income Kentucky families struggling to afford care while they work. The proposed appropriation levels for federal child care assistance would be just 0.1 percent higher than in 2017, which is considerably less than what is needed just to keep up with rising child care costs. At the same time, additional investments are needed to cover the costs of meeting federally mandated standards to strengthen the health, safety and quality of child care. As a result of federal funding coming up short, fewer children would be served.
Kentucky already faces many environmental challenges, including pollution that degrades our drinking water and state budget cuts that have weakened environmental enforcement. The House budget proposal would make the situation worse, further diminishing federal efforts to reduce water pollution and improve access to safe drinking water — for instance, by helping to replace aging pipes, upgrading treatment systems, and correcting problems such as wastewater and stormwater draining into the same sewers and overflowing during heavy rains. The proposed appropriation levels for water infrastructure are $270 million below 2017 funding through the Environmental Protection Agency — bringing the cumulative cut to 46 percent below the 2001 level when inflation is taken into account. Agriculture Department programs that specifically address the water infrastructure needs of rural communities would also be cut — by 17 percent from 2017 levels.
If these proposed appropriations were enacted for federal NDD programs — especially on top of cuts to key entitlement programs — our state would experience a weakened education system, reduced health (including mental health), and fewer opportunities for Kentuckians to move up the economic ladder. Rather than the continued erosion of federal NDD funding, we need greater investment in critical services that help build thriving communities in Kentucky.