National WIC Association

Weekly WIC Policy Update

April 9, 2018

Congress Now Focused on FY 2019 Appropriations

Returning to our nation's capital this week after a two week Spring recess, members of Congress will be focused primarily on FY 2019 appropriations. As a reminder, Congress passed an FY 2018 omnibus spending bill just before they left for recess on March 23, meaning that government funding for the next six months is set and Congress is now free to focus on how the government will be funded in FY 2019. Congress had begun to consider FY 2019 appropriations prior to the Spring recess, but negotiations were stymied by the need to pass a long term spending package for FY 2018.

Many appropriations subcommittees in the House and Senate will hold hearings this week to consider the President's budget request and begin the process of setting their appropriation levels for various programs. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA, and Related Agencies, which sets funding for WIC and all other USDA programs, will hold a hearing this Wednesday, April 11 at 10:30am ET. Witnesses at this hearing will include Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture, Dr. Robert Johansson, USDA Chief Economist, and Diem-Linh Jones, USDA Acting Budget Officer.

As the FY 2019 appropriations process continues over the next weeks and months, NWA will keep you abreast of any WIC funding updates and will continue to advocate for our FY 2019 funding priorities.

House to Consider Balanced Budget Amendment Later this Week

The House will vote this Thursday on a constitutional balanced budget amendment, H.J. Res. 2, introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). This amendment, which has been introduced several times in past Congresses, would require Congress to balance its budget every year (i.e. spend as much or less than it takes in). The amendment would also require a "true majority" in both the House and Senate to pass tax increases and a three-fifths majority in both chambers to increase the debt limit.

This amendment has been opposed by moderate Republicans and virtually all Democrats, who recognize that such a change would depress economic activity and exacerbate recessions by limiting the government's ability to borrow and spend money. By requiring a balanced budget every year, the amendment would raise serious risks of tipping weak economies into recession and making recessions more frequent, longer, and deeper, causing very large job losses and hurting long-term growth. This is because it would force policymakers to cut spending (their most likely strategy) or raise taxes (something policymakers routinely resist) just when the economy is weak or already in recession — the exact opposite of what good economic policy calls for.

If you consider how a family plans out their budget each year, they will typically balance their checkbooks but not their budget. If a family chose to balance its budget every year, that would mean they could not borrow any money (in the form of mortgages, student loans, dealer-financed cars, etc.) and also that they could not dip into any savings or inheritance. In other words, they would have to finance everything in their lives—from homes to cars to education—with their current annual income. You can see how this wouldn’t make good financial sense at the family level. It also doesn’t make good sense on the federal level.

Balancing the budget each year would have negative impacts on government programs including WIC, as it would mean drastic reductions in spending on discretionary programs. Luckily, H. J. Res. 2 has little chance of becoming law, as it will need Democratic support in the Senate and ratification from the majority of states. NWA will keep you updated on the prospects of the balanced budget amendment and implications for WIC.