Thursday, May 23, 2013

House approves low budget suballocations, setting up battle with Senate

by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference

On May 21, the House Appropriations Committee released its 302(b) allocations, which are the levels of budget authority allocated to each subcommittee. The allocation for Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) is only $44.1 billion, which is $4 billion less than the post-sequestration FY 2013 level. This is an unsustainably low level, and one that reflects the overall 302(a) budget cap of $973 billion the House set earlier this year. NHC, as part of the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding, is pressing for a much higher THUD 302(b) spending level.

Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-MA) observed as much during the markup. She offered an amendment to increase the 302(a) allocation for THUD to $1.058 trillion, the presequester level and roughly in line with the President’s budget request. Notably, Rep. Lowey’s amendment included additional funds to fully renewed property-based Section 8 contracts (which NHC has supported). The amendment was defeated along party lines.

The House THUD appropriation level as proposed is unlikely to become law, but it does set up a major battle with the Senate, which has not yet set its 302(b) allocations. The two chambers set very different overall budget levels; Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) announced a 302(a) level of $1.058 trillion. The House and Senate have yet to come to any compromise or agreement on them. Expect a major battle this year, largely along party lines, over the total amount of federal spending. The course of that battle will be partly determined by how strongly advocates call for funding of essential priorities like affordable housing, and the result of that battle will then flow back downward in the federal spending decisions.

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