LSTA nets small increase in shutdown-avoiding FY17 omnibus spending bill

Seven months past their October 1, 2016 deadline — the start of the Fiscal Year — the U.S. Senate late yesterday approved the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 (H.R. 244): a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending package for FY2017. It includes additional funding for libraries. The House approved the spending measure on Wednesday, just two days after it was released early Monday morning. The President is expected to sign the funding measure despite the exclusion of several of his key priorities.

Coming on the heels for the President’s FY2018 “Skinny” budget recommendation to eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which includes the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), Congress reversed course and added $1 million funding to IMLS for the remainder of FY 2017. LSTA funding was increased by $628,000 raising their total level to $183.6 million. The Grants to States Program and National Leadership Grants were each increased over $300,000 (raising Grants to States to $156.1 million and National Leadership to $13.4 million). Native American Grants ($4.1 million) and Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian ($10 million) received level funding.

As the only program specifically dedicated to school library materials, Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) received level funding at $27 million. ALA was disappointed, however, at the $400 million funding level of the ESSA Title IV Part — far below the authorized level of $1.6 billion and now a competitive grant program.

Attention now turns to FY 2018 Appropriations process kicked off by the release of the President’s “Skinny” Budget which included a recommendation to abolish funding for IMLS along with substantial spending cuts and program eliminations across the board, hitting education (and possibly IAL) especially hard. The President’s full budget, which is likely to include additional cuts and program eliminations, is expected to be transmitted to Congress later in May. While the President’s budget is “dead on arrival” in Congress, never-the-less it provides spending hawks a strong budget-cutting message.

ALA’s campaign to fight for library funding is well underway. ALA grassroots responded en-masse and were responsible for a significant increase in House signatures to the “Dear Appropriator” letters for LSTA and IAL. Last week, ALA kicked off its Senate Campaign, which runs through May 19.

About Kevin Maher

Kevin Maher is the assistant director of the American Library Association's Office of Government Relations.

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