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League Urges Congress to Lift Severe Caps on Discretionary Spending

LWVUS joined organizations connected to the Coalition on Human Needs on a letter urging members of Congress to lift severe caps on domestic and international discretionary spending in Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021. Failure to raise the caps will result in sharply reduced funding for domestic and international discretionary programs (together known as “non-defense” or NDD) from $597 billion in FY 2019 to $543 billion in FY 2020, a $54 billion drop, or 9 percent, not counting inflation.

Dear Representative/Senator:


The undersigned organizations strongly urge you to continue the progress advanced in the last two years by supporting legislation to lift the severe caps on domestic and international discretionary spending in Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021.

The choice before you is stark: failure to raise the caps will mean fewer families, seniors, and people with disabilities will be able to afford housing; fewer workers will get training to qualify for jobs our economy needs; fewer children will get the education and child care they deserve; and public health and safety protections will be undermined.

Failure to raise the caps will result in sharply reduced funding for domestic and international discretionary programs (together known as “non-defense” or NDD) from $597 billion in FY 2019 to $543 billion in FY 2020, a $54 billion drop, or 9 percent, not counting inflation. That, however, understates the impact, because certain programs must receive increases, including the 2020 Census and veterans’ health care services, meaning other programs will be cut even more deeply.

These new funding requirements mean that the arbitrary and harshly restrictive caps must be lifted substantially above an inflation adjustment in order to prevent the reversal of progress in meeting our nation’s needs. The House-deemed NDD funding level of $631 billion for FY 2020, with specific Census and IRS enforcement funds outside the statutory cap, would prevent harmful cuts and build on the bipartisan progress begun in fiscal years 2018-2019. Hundreds of thousands of affordable child care placements were lost between FYs 2010 and 2018. The House appropriations total would allow substantial progress in undoing that loss, helping parents to work while their children thrive. With additional federal funding, prevention and treatment programs for substance use disorders have expanded services, which are urgently needed to stem the opioid epidemic that killed 47,000 people in 2017 alone. Inadequate funding threatens to erode this progress.

There are many other urgent needs: for K-12 and post-secondary education; housing assistance; home heating and cooling; nutrition for pregnant women, infants, young children, and seniors; veterans’ health care services; environmental safety; infrastructure rebuilding; and medical research, and child welfare protections. Between FY 2010 and FY 2019, funding for NDD programs was cut by 4.7 percent, taking inflation into account. For some programs with disproportionate impact on low-income people, the losses have been far greater: an inflation-adjusted cut of 38 percent for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP); 40 percent for juvenile justice programs; nearly 19 percent for Child Welfare Services; 17 percent to the Public Housing Operating Fund; and 16-17 percent cuts to Adult and Youth job training programs.

The undersigned organizations represent human service providers, educators, faith organizations, businesspeople, physicians, research and policy experts, representing millions of people nationwide. We believe that raising the NDD caps for the next two years is both a moral imperative and essential for the security and prosperity of our nation. Allowing the existing cap to impose an 11 percent cut in NDD from FY19 to FY20, counting inflation, is simply unacceptable. And flat funding through a continuing resolution would force irresponsible cuts in benefits and services, just not as deep. We need you to fight for our future by securing at least the House NDD funding levels by lifting the statutory cap, and to do so without making cuts to vital programs such as Medicaid and SNAP.

(See attached for full list of signers)