Over the next few weeks, the White House is expected to release its FY2019 budget request to Congress. We expect the budget to include draconian cuts to library, education and other non-defense discretionary spending. In fact, we believe the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is likely to be proposed to be eliminated outright.
But wait, doesn’t Congress still have to finish a budget and spending bill for FY2018? Does this mean that Congress may need to negotiate two different spending bills at the same time?
The short answer is, yes.
As you may recall, early last year the administration’s FY2018 budget proposed steep cuts, including the complete elimination of the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) which includes programs funded by the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), and the Innovative Approaches to Literacy program.
As a result of ALA’s grassroots mobilization and advocacy, many of these proposed cuts were rejected by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and major ALA funding priorities have remained in the clear. In fact, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to increase IMLS funding by $4 million over FY2017 levels in its funding bill.
Since then, Congress has been unable to reconcile their respective funding bills and has instead passed a series of “continuing resolutions” or CRs which temporarily fund the government for short periods of time at current FY2017 levels. Partisan divisions over policy issues have also delayed an agreement on a final FY2017 funding agreement. Among the issues hampering negotiations include Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a border wall with Mexico, Children’s Health Insurance Program and disaster relief.
This week Congress will face its fourth consecutive CR deadline and there are rumblings of yet another CR to fund the government through the end of March. During this time, it is possible that the president’s FY2019 budget will be introduced before we see a budget deal and a full spending package for FY2018. This will make an already confusing funding situation even more so.
So, why is this important and what does this mean for library funding?
The budget and appropriations timeline and process is messy and confusing. Since we are already four months into FY2018, Congress will be in the position to have to begin considering an FY2019 budget as it is still trying to finalize its FY2018 budget and spending.
Library funding for FY2018 is not yet set in stone and discussions on an FY2018 budget deal and spending package can have direct implications for these programs. If a budget deal includes higher budget caps, which then could result in Appropriators having more money to allocate to federal programs, it is possible that we could see an increase in funding for ALA priority programs.
Additionally, the President’s FY2019 budget is expected to propose even worse cuts than his previous proposal.
But it is important to remember: these cuts are only suggestions by the Trump Administration. Only Congress has the delegated Constitutional “power of the purse” meaning that decisions on specific items like these are ultimately up to Congress.
The Library community must stay engaged and ensure that our members of Congress hear from us on the importance of library funding. Despite the never-ending confusion of the budget process, the battle for library funding continues. Stay tuned to District Dispatch for updates as the budget process unfolds – for both FY2018 and FY2019.