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Shutdown could threaten library funding

With just a just a few calendar days, and even fewer legislative days left before the end of the fiscal year at midnight on September 30th, Congressional leaders are struggling to avert a Federal government shutdown by acting to fund the government as of October 1. The options available for leaders are few, however, and several roadblocks stand in the way: a block of conservative members are demanding that Congress defund Planned Parenthood; other Members are calling for dramatic cuts in non-Defense programs without compromising with Democrats, who are seeking reductions in defense spending to increase funds for some domestic priorities.

Government shutdown threatens library funding.
Government shutdown threatens library funding (istock photos)

As a result, Congress may be forced to adopt a series of Continuing Resolutions: short-term stopgap measures to keep the government’s doors open while leaders seek to resolve controversial issues and differences in spending priorities that have split the parties as well as reportedly created fissures within the Republican Party.

For library community priorities, and the education community in general, the appropriations process has been a mixed bag to date. The Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) received funding of $180.9 million in the FY15 Omnibus funding bill passed last December. The Obama Administration proposal requested that Congress increase that sum to $186.6 million in its FY 2016 budget. The House Appropriations Committee, however, approved it’s a funding bill with a smaller increase to $181.1 million, while the Senate Committee provided $181.8 million. Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) would receive level funding of $25 million under the Senate’s bill, although no funds were requested for the program by the Administration or the House.

Final appropriations for LSTA and IAL — included in the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill — have yet to be considered on the Floor in the House or Senate and the likelihood that any such individual appropriations bill will be considered as a stand-alone bill is small and diminishing at this late stage of Congress’ funding cycle.

Funding for education priorities in general also is facing rough seas with significant cuts proposed by both House and Senate Appropriators. Overall education funding would be cut $2.7 billion by the House and $1.7 billion by the Senate. The Obama Administration had proposed an education funding increase of $3.6 billion.

The pathways forward for FY16 funding are uncertain. It is virtually guaranteed, however, that between now and the end of this month you will be hearing and reading the terms government shutdown, continuing resolution, Omnibus package, Planned Parenthood, and defense versus domestic spending more and more every day.

Might want to keep those earplugs and eyeshades handy!

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Kevin Maher

Kevin Maher is the deputy director of government relations at the American Library Association’s Washington Office. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Before coming to the ALA in 2014, Kevin was the vice president of government affairs for the American Hotel and Lodging Association for 20 years.

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