Congress’ annual appropriations process is off to a late start as lawmakers rush to draft and vote on spending bills before the October 1 start of Fiscal Year (FY) 2018. Throughout June, members on the House Appropriations Committee released just four of the twelve annual spending proposals needed to fund federal agencies and programs through the next fiscal year.
Delays are not uncommon in the appropriations process. However, Congress has yet to finalize the budgetary spending limits for FY 2018 that guide lawmakers as they allocate annual funds. As such, House appropriators may be forced to take shortcuts to finish the budget process ahead of the September 30 deadline. With so little time to consider all 12 spending bills, there is unlikely to be sufficient time for bipartisan negotiations. Lawmakers may also need to rewrite individual bills in FY 2018 if spending levels change.
Typically, the annual appropriations process is initiated when the president submits a budget proposal to Congress on February 1. Throughout March and April, the House and Senate Budget Committees develop and report a budget resolution. Once the resolution passes in each chamber, legislators work to reconcile the measures in a budget conference that determines how much money the federal government can appropriate for that fiscal year.
Congress has been unable in recent years to pass standalone appropriations bills, due to intensifying partisanship in both chambers. To pass funding measures, legislators increasingly rely on year-end omnibus appropriations bills (that combine some or all 12 annual spending bills) or continuing resolutions (which fund federal programs and agencies at prior-year spending levels) to finalize the annual appropriating process. This can lead to uncertainty and anxiety for states and localities that rely on federal funds.
Counties play a key role in administering federal programs and services at the state and local level. When the federal government misses key appropriations deadlines, or uses short-term funding extensions, counties are unable to effectively plan and implement a workable budget.
NACo will continue to track the appropriations process as Congress initiates budget negotiations.
For more on how NACo works with Congress on appropriations to secure county priorities, please see NACo’s analysis of FY 2017 Omnibus Appropriations package.