Late last night, Congress announced its proposed FY16 budget agreement detailing funding levels for the Federal government through September 2016, which includes increases for key library programs and allows implementation of the Federal Communications Commission Open Internet Order to go forward. House Speaker Ryan also sneaked in a cybersecurity rider that ALA strongly opposes. In an action alert, we call on ALA members to urge their Members of Congress to oppose this provision.
Congress is expected to vote on the 2,000+ page $1.1 trillion spending Omnibus funding measure by week’s end. The current Continuing Resolution – necessary to keep the government open past the October 1 Fiscal Year start – expires today but will likely be extended several days to allow Congressional debate and votes on the spending and tax package. Congressional negotiators included $650 billion in tax breaks in addition to the $1.1 trillion spending provisions. Final passage of the Omnibus package is expected, though strong opposition from some fiscal hawks is anticipated.
Funding for Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) will be increased in FY16 to $183 million, an increase over the FY15 level of $181 million. The President’s budget request to Congress called for a larger increase, while House and Senate committee bills recommended only minimal increases over FY15 levels. Grants to States will receive a FY16 boost to $155.8 million ($154.8 million in FY15). Funding for Native American Library Services is raised slightly to $4.1 million, up from $3.9 million. National Leadership for Libraries is raised to $13.1 million, up from $12.2 million. Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian funding will be level funded at $10 million.
Overall funding for Institute of Museum and Library Services will be given a slight increase over FY15 levels to $230 million, up from $227.8 million. The $230 million level is a compromise number between the President’s request ($237.4 million) and House/Senate recommended levels ($227.8 million).
Funding for school libraries received an increase of $2 million which raises the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program from $25 million in FY15 to $27 million in FY 16. IAL funding reserves half of its funding for school libraries.
Much of the appropriations discussions focused less on funding levels but on policy riders addressing controversial issues such as abortion, refugees, energy, and gun control and research. A threatened policy rider – opposed strongly by ALA – that would have prohibited the FCC from implementing its Open Internet Order, failed to overcome strong opposition and was not included in the final spending package. Once again, funding for E-rate will not be delayed as Congress extended the Anti-Deficiency Act exemption through 2017. ALA urged Congress to include this exemption.