President’s FY 2020 Budget: Give it a glance but keep walking

Budget would cut science, services, infrastructure, but add more for a wall

 The Trump administration’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 budget was released in two parts over the week of March 11 – 18, 2019. Despite confusion over exactly how big some of the cuts were --the Department of Health and Human Services said the National Institutes of Health (NIH), currently funded at $39 billion, would be cut by $4.5 billion; the Office of Management and Budget said the cut was $5.7 billion-- budget experts in Congress and Washington observers were not inclined to expend much effort to make the math add up. The President’s budget proposal was almost universally panned, and it is unlikely to exert much influence over Congress as the House and Senate Budget Committees begin to write their own 2020 funding blueprint. 

However, even a budget with little influence provides information that Washington policymakers can use. It tells you about priorities, economic assumptions, and programs on the chopping block.  That’s why we at the American Psychological Association (APA) never ignore the President’s budget.

Highlights of the President’s proposal are:

  • Cuts the NIH by over 13% in FY 2020.

  • Cuts the National Science Foundation (NSF) by 12% in FY 2020.

  • Cuts the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by 17.6% in FY 2020; cuts grow to 33.8% after ten years.

  • Cuts the Environmental Protection Agency by 33% in FY 2020 and by 45% over ten years.

  • Cuts the National Aeronautic and Space Administration by 22% over ten years.

  • Cuts Medicare funding by about 10% over 10 years, despite a projected 44% increase in beneficiaries by 2030.

  • Reduces Medicaid funding by 5% over 10 years and converts it into a system of block grants with per-capita caps.

  • Repeals the Affordable Care Act, including exchanges, marketplace subsidies, and Medicaid expansion.

  • Cuts Head Start by 17% over ten years after holding its budget steady for 2020.

  • Eliminates Public Service Loan Forgiveness for new borrowers.

  • Cuts discretionary defense spending from $647 billion to $576 billion, but raises defense spending overall by increasing the Overseas Contingency Operations account from $69 billion to $165 billion to circumvent the budget caps.  

  • Proposes $8.6 billion for construction of walls or other barriers across the southern border.

  • Cuts transportation, a key infrastructure indicator, by a net $286 billion over ten years.

Most of these cuts are unlikely to be enacted. APA and other scientific organizations are advocating for a $2.5 billion increase for NIH in FY 2020 and a $1 billion increase for NSF, and the Appropriations Committees are encouraging.

Still, for these and other funding increases to be feasible, Congress must enact a budget agreement that raises the spending caps that were put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The last budget agreement simply allowed more federal borrowing, but earlier agreements to raise the caps were ‘paid for’ by raising some revenue. Without raising the caps, there remains extraordinary pressure on current levels of funding.

Every year since 2014, Congress has approved a budget agreement that raises the spending caps but there is no agreement yet for 2020. So APA is advocating for Congress to #raisethecaps.

We will share more information about the federal budget and appropriations bills throughout the spring and summer as that legislation is drafted and debated. For the latest, please follow us on Twitter: @APA, @APAScience.