Congress Approves Fiscal Year 2007 Spending Bill
The House and Senate finally completed appropriations for Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 by passing a joint funding resolution on February 14, 2007, just beating the February 15th deadline when funding for most government programs was set to expire. The programs had been funded by a series of continuing resolution as nine of the 11 spending bills for FY 2007 had yet to be completed by the previous Congress. The Senate passed the measure by a vote of 81-15 just hours before the most recent continuing resolution was set to expire. The House passed the measure on January 31st by a vote of 286-140. This joint funding resolution will fund programs through the end of this Fiscal Year—September 30, 2007.
The joint funding resolution includes an overall increase of $2.3 billion to the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS) appropriations as requested by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Arlen Specter (R-PA). This represents a full $7 billion above the President’s FY 2007 budget request, and added billions for selected health and education programs, including $620 million for the National Institutes of Health, $76 million for the Ryan White CARE Act, and $270 million for community health centers. Some programs, such as Title X family planning programs, however, did not see increased funding levels. Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs were flat-funded at $113 million, meaning they received that the same amount of funding they had received in Fiscal Year 2006. This is the second year in a row that congress has chosen not to increase abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.
President Releases Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Request
On February 5th, President Bush released his Fiscal Year 2008 budget request seeking a total of $2.8 trillion dollars in funding from Congress. The President’s budget plan, which has frequently served as the starting point for debate on appropriations bills, proposes to flat- fund or eliminate many of the programs that provide health care, education, housing, nutrition, and social services.
While the President requested cuts in a myriad of proven and already under-funded health and education programs, he once again proposed increasing funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs by 15% over the FY 2007 level to $204 million. The President asked for this increase despite the fact that with over $1 billion spent on these programs there is not a single, sound, peer-reviewed study showing that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs work to help young people make good decisions in the long term. The President’s request would increase the Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) account by $28 million to $141 million, which includes $4.5 million for a national evaluation of abstinence-only programs. As in past years, the request includes funding of $50 million for the Title V, Section 510 funding stream and $13 million for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs within the Adolescent Family Life Act (AFLA). Interestingly, this year’s budget lists abstinence-only-until-marriage programs under the heading of “Continuing the Administration’s Faith-Based Agenda.” (In past years, funding requests for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs have been listed under such headings as “Marriage and Healthy Family Development” or “Community Initiatives.”) Advocates will be closely watching the implications of this new framing in the coming year.
Title X Family Planning
The President again requested flat-funding for Title X family planning services at $283 million. Title X is the only federal program dedicated solely to funding family planning and reproductive health care services. Title X clinics offer low income women voluntary contraceptive services, prenatal care, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, and other services. While Title X did escape a proposed cut, level funding fails to take into account inflation and recent increases in contraceptive costs which have caused further strain on clinics’ budgets.
Domestic HIV/AIDS Programs
The President’s proposed funding for HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment fell far short of need. The President requested that the Ryan White CARE Act, which funds primary healthcare and support services for people living with HIV/AIDS, be primarily flat-funded (except for a minimal $25 million increase for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program). The budget request includes an increase of $93 million for HIV/AIDS-prevention programs, $63 million of which is intended to fund expanded rapid testing for up to 2 million people from at-risk populations, including low-income and minority communities. The remaining $30 million is slated for the new Early Diagnosis Grant Programs which was passed as part of the recent Ryan White CARE Act reauthorization. Of this $30 million, $20 million would be available to states that have voluntary opt-out HIV testing for pregnant women and mandatory testing for newborns, and $10 million would be available to states that have voluntary opt-out HIV testing of clients at STD clinics and voluntary opt-out testing of clients at drug treatment centers. States that do not have these programs in place would not be eligible to receive the funds. Currently no state meets these strict parameters and advocates are therefore concerned that this much-needed HIV-prevention funding may likely sit unspent.
“It is clear that President Bush is once again putting his conservative ideology ahead of the education and public health needs of Americans,” said William Smith, vice president for public policy at SIECUS. “It is unconscionable that, in these tight budget times, the President would cut funding from effective, evidence-based public health programs while requesting increases to ideologically driven and unproven abstinence-until-marriage programs,” Smith continued, adding that, “It is the American people that lose out when the Administration continues to undervalue and under-fund the public health system.”
Global HIV/AIDS Programs
In the global funding arena, the 2008 Budget allocates $5.4 billion for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which includes $4.2 billion for treatment, prevention, and care activities in the 15 PEPFAR focus countries, as well as an additional $1.2 billion for HIV/AIDS programs worldwide, research on the disease, and contributions to multilateral partner organizations. Bush has asked for $300 million for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and $491 million for other activities, including TB programs.
International Family Planning
The President’s budget would cut funding for international family planning by $111 million, nearly one-fourth of the FY 2007 funding level. According to the Bush administration, the budget “reflect[s] significant successes that have been achieved after 40 years of worldwide family planning efforts.” Fiscal Year 2008 funds will target Africa, “where significant family planning needs remain.”
For more information:
The full Fiscal Year 2007 Joint Funding Resolution can be accessed at: http://www.rules.house.gov/110/text/110th_hjres20.pdf
A summary of the Year 2007 Joint Funding Resolution can be accessed at: http://appropriations.house.gov/pdf/CRSummary.pdf