FY2012 Funding for Native American Programs
Re-cap: How Federal Programs Are Funded
Each federal program has to be authorized (described in law and given authority to operate or to continue to operate) and has to receive permission to spend a certain amount of federal funds (an appropriation.) Each year, at least in theory, Congress passes 12 separate appropriations bills, each generated by an appropriations subcommittee, and each covering certain departments or parts of departments. These bills are supposed to be completed and approved by October 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year for the federal government.
What Happened to Appropriations This Year (FY 2012)?
Congress was a bit behind on appropriations this year (not unlike last year!) By November, Congress was ready to agree on three appropriations measures, covering five departments plus a few science programs. These three bills were packaged together in a "mini-bus" (a nickname for a "small" combined appropriations bill.) The December, 2011 Native American Legislative Update (NALU) included a summary of the funding for tribal programs provided by this "mini-bus."
That left nine appropriations bills still in limbo, with quite a bit of speculation around Washington regarding the probable date when these bills would be completed. Few believed that the bills would be approved before Christmas. But on December 23, President Obama signed the FY 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 2055), known fondly as the "mega-bus."
The nine remaining appropriations bills were:
- Energy and Water Development
- Financial Services and General Government
- Homeland Security
- Labor-Health and Human Services-Education
- Legislative Branch
- State-Foreign Operations
How Were Tribal Programs Affected?
Funding for tribal programs figured into most of the bills that were bundled into the FY 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act. Here are some highlights:
- Bureau of Indian Affairs was funded at $2.54 billion, $58.7 million below the FY 2011 appropriations level. Most BIA programs were maintained at the FY 2011 level or slightly below. But there were increases for education programs ($44.1 million), including student transportation and early childhood development, and for public safety and justice programs ($12.7 million), including corrections and detention facilities operation. At the same time, the BIA Construction budget was reduced substantially, by $85.8 million below FY 2011 levels.
- Environmental Protection Agency appropriations included funding close to the FY 2011 level for EPA's Tribal General Assistance Program, which builds tribal capacity to sustain basic environmental protection programs at the local level; tribal air quality management program; and water and waste water program for Alaska Native villages.
Congress did not fund the new multimedia tribal implementation program, proposed in the President's budget at $20 million for FY2012. This program would have enhanced tribal capacity for such activities as monitoring environmental quality and issuing permits.
- The Indian Health Service received a 6% increase over FY 2011, for a total of $4.3 billion, with Indian Health Services funded at $3.87 billion, $207.1 million over FY 2011, and Indian Health Facilities (construction and sanitation programs) funded at $441.1 million, $37.1 million over the FY 2011 amount. Congress provided increased funding for several needed improvements: more staffing at newly constructed IHS facilities in Oklahoma, California, North Dakota and South Dakota; purchasing services from the private sector if a patient needs medical care that is not available at that patient's IHS facility; for the Indian Health Care Improvement Fund, which provides funding to the most needy sites within the IHS system to reduce health care services backlogs; for contract support costs for tribes operating their own health programs; and for construction of new health facilities in Alaska, Arizona and California.
- Department of Education, Office of Indian Education received funding for a new $2 million pilot program in which Tribal Departments of Education would directly administer some Elementary and Secondary Education Act programs at the local level, rather than having those programs administered by the Department of Education.
- Bureau of Land Management appropriations provided $50.9 million for five Indian water rights settlements that were enacted in late 2010 along with the Cobell settlement. These funds are for tribal water rights settlements in New Mexico, Arizona and Montana.
- Department of Energy appropriations included $10 million for Tribal Energy Activities, $3 million increase over FY 2011 funding.
- Department of Veterans Affairs appropriations provided an increase of $454,000 for the Native American veterans housing loan program, bringing the FY 2012 total to $1.1 million.
Across-the-board Cuts: A general provision in the Consolidated Appropriations Act imposed an across-the-board percentage cut on almost all programs included in the consolidated bills. For programs in the Interior Department and EPA, the percentage was 0.16%. Programs in the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Departments were reduced by 0.189%. With some exceptions, tribal programs shared in these reductions; the reductions are subtracted from appropriated amounts for each affected program.
Next NALU: Committee plans for 2012 from the House Natural Resources Committee, subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs, and the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.