Legislative Update

By Brad Penney, General Counsel for The Advocates for The Other America

We expect a tough year ahead on the Hill as far as NASCSP programs are concerned. Just before the Christmas holiday, the first session of the 112th Congress ended with the passage of an Omnibus Appropriations bill for FY 2012. While CSBG fared reasonably well, funded at $ 713.63 million, WAP did not, with a final funding level of $68M for FY 2012. While this number takes into account formula funding from previous years that remains “in the pipeline” as well as $450M in unspent ARRA funds, the impact of the deep cut in FY 2012 funding will be felt in many states, despite grant modifications to the ARRA spend-out deadline of March 31, 2012.

Advocates for the Other America (AFTOA), a new, independent 501(C)4 representing NASCSP on the Hill, has accelerated its lobbying activity in response to the disappointing 2012 number. Just before the end of 2011, we worked with the Alliance to Save Energy’s Energy Efficiency Coalition composed of private businesses and energy related non-profits and associations to sign a letter to the President requesting a total of $225M in FY 2013 funding for WAP. Additionally, NASCSP Executive Director, Tim Warfield; Don Mathis, President and CEO of the Community Action Partnership; and Mark Wolfe, Executive Director of the National Energy Assistance Director’s Association (NEADA) sent a similar letter to the President. We followed up these letters with meetings, in January, with the Assistant Secretary of Energy for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Kathleen Hogan, and a senior official at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in order to press for $225M in FY2013 WAP funding.

The President’s budget will be released in early February, and NASCSP will be sending relevant information and numbers as soon as they can.  Meanwhile, AFTOA is scheduling meetings with Senate Appropriations Committee staff and with key allies on the Hill such as Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed and Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, as well as planning another WAP Lobby Day for February 28th.

Regarding both CSBG and WAP, we anticipate a 5% across the board cut in all domestic discretionary programs as a result of the budget caps imposed by last summer’s budget deficit agreement.  We also anticipate that the Administration will request a cut in CSBG funding, similar to that of a year ago. We believe that continued gridlock on the Hill makes it likely that we will see a Continuing Resolution funding our programs for most, if not all, of FY 2013, or at least until after the November elections.  That means another unpopular “lame duck” session (whenever one Congress meets after its successor is elected, but before the successor’s term begins) in December.

Meanwhile, we have been working on the reauthorization of CSBG. While we don’t expect Congress will pass much legislation before the November elections, we will be ready to take our CSBG reauthorization recommendations to the Hill as well as continue our conversations with the Administration about the future of this program.

It is likely that 2012 will be a bumpy year on Capitol Hill. AFTOA plans on expanding our outreach on the Hill significantly and working with non-traditional allies like faith-based groups in an effort to build new coalitions to ensure our programs are adequately funded going forward.  AFTOA and NASCSP will keep you closely informed on the FY 2013 budget and other actions as the election year unfolds.