Legislative News InBrief

February 12, 2007

Volume VII, Issue 7

FY 2007 Continuing Resolution
The Senate is expected to vote this week on the FY 2007 Continuing Resolution (HJ Res. 20). The Continuing Resolution (CR) deals with the nine unresolved FY 2007 appropriation bills. The CR that passed the House on January 31 contains slight increases in some major programs, including No Child Left Behind (+$125 million), IDEA State Grant (+$200 million), Head Start (+$104 million), NIH (+$619.5 million), and transit programs (+$470 million). This was accomplished through removing earmarks to free up additional money. All other programs were held at FY 2006 levels. The Senate must pass the CR by February 15 or extend the current stopgap CR again. Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) employed a parliamentary measure known as "filling an amendment tree" to prevent other members from offering amendments. While this has upset some Republican members, he is expected to limit debate and hold a vote early this week.

President's FY 2008 Budget
Last week's In Brief highlighted major impacts of the President's FY 2008 Budget on programs affecting people with disabilities and the AUCD network. Overall, the budget would have a devastating impact on individuals with disabilities. The $2.9 trillion budget seeks large increases in military spending, continuation of tax cuts, and cuts in human services spending. Democrats last week voiced a great deal of criticism over the budget. Many of the cuts were proposed in previous years and were unable to pass under Republican-controlled congresses. The budget proposes to eliminate or cut funding for 141 discretionary spending programs, saving $12 billion. In fact, 62 of the 91 terminations and 22 of the 50 reductions were proposed last year. AUCD helped lead an effort to create and distribute a CCD press release concerning the impact of the budget on people with disabilities.

Below are some additional details concerning the President's FY 2008 budget:

One of the major health care battles this year will concern the reauthorization of the SCHIP program. AUCD legislative staff attended briefings last week with members of the Senate Finance committee. The President's budget requests only a $5 billion increase in SCHIP. Estimates indicate that at least $15 billion would be needed to continue the program at current levels through 2012. The President proposes to cover only children below 200% of poverty at the enhanced SCHIP match. However, 17 states currently cover children up to 350% of poverty. Some states have also covered limited numbers of adults and have used SCHIP as a vehicle for broader reforms to address uninsured children. Another issue that could surface during reauthorization concerns EPST services. One of the major differences between SCHIP and Medicaid is that SCHIP does not cover EPSDT. Senator Rockefeller expressed concern over this, particularly within the context of children with Autism.

Overall, the President is requesting $36.2 billion in funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for FY 2008, nearly $2 billion below the amount that Congress is soon expected to approve for the agency for Fiscal Year 2007 in the Continuing Resolution. For the third consecutive year the President's budget seeks a deep cut for the Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program, the only federal program that produces affordable and accessible housing for low-income people with severe disabilities. The President's budget would cut Section 811 nearly in half, dropping funding down to $125 million from its expected FY 2007 level of $237 million. Nearly all of the remaining funding would be utilized for maintaining existing housing. Furthermore, the President's budget is seeking $16 billion for the Section 8 tenant-based rental voucher program for FY 2008. The Section 8 tenant-based rental assistance program funds vouchers that pay the difference between rental costs and a percentage of tenant income. There is no funding for new vouchers.

Department of Labor
The President proposed a 17% reduction from 2006 in the employment and training programs at the Department of Labor (DOL) from $5.2 billion in FY 2006 to a proposed $4.3 billion in FY 2008. Once again the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) is slated for a large reduction ($27.7 in FY 2006 to $18.6 in FY 2008). ODEP is also the only department within DOL scheduled for any reduction in staff size. The budget proposed shrinking ODEP by 19 staff positions. The President has again proposed eliminating the work incentive grant program ($19.5 million in FY 2006).

Lifespan Respite Care Act
The President's FY 2008 budget contains no funding for the Lifespan Respite Care Act. Senators Clinton (D-NY) and Warner (R-VA) are circulating a "Dear Colleague" letter to the Budget Committee [pdf] in attempt to secure funding.

So far, the following Senators have signed on: Lincoln, Snowe, Stabenow, Mikulski, Bingaman, Schumer, Bayh, Lieberman, Collins, Cantwell, and Menendez. AUCD sent out an action alert last week. The deadline for signatures is Tuesday, February 13.

CDC Autism Prevalence Study
Last Friday, CDC released a new study indicating an Autism prevalence rate of 1 in every 150 children in the United States. This is an increased rate over that proposed just a year ago. AUCD prepared a press release concerning the new study, underscoring the need for additional funding for research, services, and supports. The President's proposed FY 2008 contains no funding for the Combating Autism Act at the end of the 109th Congress.

Policy Seminar
The Disability Policy Seminar, co-sponsored by AUCD along with The Arc, UCP, NACDD, and AAIDD will be held March 4-6, 2007, in Washington, DC. Issues that will be addressed include the NCLB, Higher Education Act, Rehab Act, DD Act, Family Support, ADA, and appropriations for all disability programs. A special panel is being planned at this year's Disability Policy Seminar to discuss legislation addressing autism spectrum disorder, including the Combating Autism Act passed last year and new legislation currently in development. You can register here. The deadline for online registration is February 23. Also, if you are planning on attending please remember to schedule visits with your members of congress prior to arrival. You can coordinate visits with others attending the seminar from your state. See you there!