Get Involved, Stay Engaged: The 2009 Appropriations Process Offers NRPA Members an Outstanding Opportunity to Get Involved

Article excerpt

It's that time again. The annual federal appropriations cycle is approaching as President Barack Obama submits budget requests this month. Unlike authorizing bills, which create new programs, appropriations bills fund all aspects of government.

The process is an important way for programs that provide support to local and state park and recreation centers to be funded across the country. By funding federal programs that provide grant and direct funding opportunities to our members, the federal appropriations cycle can be a valuable way to continue the positive work currently being done in communities.

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The U.S. Constitution mandates that all spending bills originate in the House of Representatives. There are 13 appropriations subcommittees in the House and Senate that correspond with federal agencies. The process begins with the House of Representatives responding to the President's budget request.

The House Budget Committee determines the overall discretionary spending limits for Congress, and the House Appropriations Committee determines how much money will be allocated to each of the 13 subcommittees. There are a series of hearings, member requests, and mark-ups--like most authorizing (nonspending) bills--that allow organizations to have the opportunity to inform Congress of why specific projects should be funded.

Following the House's recommendations, the Senate responds to the House. After the Senate crafts its 13 spending bills, all differences are worked out during a conference committee between the House and Senate.

This year, with the state of our economy and the severe needs of financial institutions, large industries, and small businesses, funding for all programs may be frugal. The current climate on the Hill reflects a priority on stimulating the economy and job creation.

President Obama's transition team and new Administration have been working on the economic stimulus and the fiscal year 2010 President's proposed budget simultaneously. The outlook for the fiscal year 2010 appropriations cycle must take into consideration Congress passing hundreds of billions of dollars in economic stimulus and job creation.

Additionally, in previous years, the Democratic Congress has implemented the "pay-go rules" that require all new spending to have a revenue offset. Fiscally conservative members of Congress have been united in opposing the large bailouts and stimulus packages, and these legislators will most likely go after any appropriations proposals with increased spending as well. …