Federal Issues update 1/17/2014
Congress Passes Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Legislation
On Monday, January 13, congressional appropriators unveiled the details of a long-awaited fiscal year 2014 omnibus spending package. The nearly 1,600-page bill (HR 3547) will fund federal government operations through September 30, 2014 at the $1.012 trillion spending level established by the recent Ryan-Murray budget agreement.
For a detailed memo about the Federal Budget Bill, please
and for a table of Key Programmatic Funding Levels in the 2014 Omnibus Budget Bill please click here.
Overall, the legislation – which combines all 12 previously unfinished appropriations measures – provides a $26 billion increase in spending compared to current levels, or $45 billion more than required by the 2011 Budget Control Act. Under the bill, a number of agencies will receive budgetary increases, while several departments, including Transportation and Homeland Security, will experience a decline in funding. At the county level, numerous programs are scheduled for increases in fiscal year 2014, while several programs will see moderate spending reductions.
Although the final omnibus spending package is largely void of extraneous policy riders, the bill includes a one-year delay in certain flood insurance rate increases. Under the legislation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is prohibited from spending funds for the remainder of fiscal year 2014 to enforce higher premiums mandated under Section 207 of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (BW-12). Section 207 of BW-12 ends current “grandfathered” subsidized rates for policyholders who are facing premium increases due to FEMA’s remapping efforts.
Although it initially appeared as though a faction of House conservatives would look to delay or block the omnibus in an effort to force consideration of a long-term continuing resolution (CR), those efforts quickly dissolved. On Wednesday, January 15, the House overwhelmingly approved HR 3547 on a 359-67 vote; the Senate cleared the bill the following day on a 72-26 margin. President Obama is expected to sign the measure into law before Saturday, which is the date the short-term CR is slated to expire.
To view highlights of the fiscal year 2014 spending legislation, please see the comparative funding charts below.
Much to the dismay of rural counties, HR 3547 did not include funding for the vitally important Payments-in-lieu-of-Taxes (PILT) program. According to key lawmakers, funding for PILT was not included in the bill, in part, to make room for additional fire suppression funding.
After an outcry from impacted counties and Western-state members of Congress, key leaders on the House Agriculture Committee announced on Friday, January 17 that the impending Farm Bill conference report will include approximately $400 million for PILT in fiscal year 2014, or the same level of funding provided during the previous fiscal year.
Although the Farm Bill has been mired in policy and funding disputes for weeks, an impasse over a controversial dairy policy is reportedly close to being resolved. With negotiators settling the most contentious issues, a draft conference report could be released as early as next week. Floor action on a final Farm Bill could occur as early as the week of January 27.
Key Committee Hearings
The House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee held a hearing on January 14 to discuss the upcoming reauthorization of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). During his opening remarks, Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) indicated that his goal is to have the next surface transportation bill on the House floor before the August recess. MAP-21 is set to expire on September 30.
As has been the case in the last several years, the most pressing question facing lawmakers is how to fund future highway and transit investment. With the Highway Trust Fund expected to reach insolvency by September due to lagging receipts in gas tax revenues, lawmakers are under increasing pressure to find a sustainable, long-term transportation funding source.
On a related matter, the T&I Committee held a hearing on January 15 to examine the challenges facing the California High-Speed Rail project. Appearing before the committee were several members of the California congressional delegation, as well as the deputy administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, the chairman of the California High Speed Rail Authority, Dan Richard, and a representative from the Congressional Research Service.
It should be noted that the fiscal year 2014 omnibus spending bill provides no new federal funding for high-speed rail projects.
Finally, the House Natural Resources Committee (NRC) convened an oversight hearing on January 14 to discuss the Obama administration’s 2013 decision to apply sequestration to the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program. The hearing was the latest move by the committee to draw attention to the administration’s controversial decision. It should be noted that the panel voted on January 16 to authorize the chairman to issue additional subpoenas for the production of documents related to the sequestration of SRS funds.