Congress Tries to Wrap Up Appropriations before Adjournment

Article excerpt

As the 104th Congress approached adjournment on September 27, the Senate finished work on its version 1997 Appropriations for the Veterans Administration (VA), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Independent Agencies (H.R.3666). In addition to 1997 funding for HUD and EPA programs, the Senate included legislative language addressing housing reforms and two insurance related amendments. The House appropriations bill does not include these legislative provisions.

Final agreement on 1997 funding for housing and environmental programs, may not make it through conference and approval by the House and Senate before time runs out. The House and Senate have passed their respective 1997 VA/HUD appropriations bills but the conferees have not scheduled their first meetings to resolve their differences.

In the mean time, to avoid having to shut down the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies, and suspension of their programs essential to cities, the Republican leadership is a continuing resolution (CR) which would, at a minimum, maintain for the next fiscal year the 1996 level of funding for HUD and EPA programs as well as other programs lacking final 1997 congressional appropriations.

1997 HUD Appropriations

Senate appropriations numbers contained in its version of H.R.3666. The good news for cities is that the Community Development and HOME block grants will be fully funded at $4.6 and $1.4 respectively. The Senate's bin includes language to address renewal of Section 8 contracts expiring in 1997. There is no provision in the House version of H.R.3666 to addresses this critical issue. This is important as neither the House nor the Senate has passed authorizing legislation addressing renewal of the Section 8 contracts expiring in 1997.

The Senate bill includes important administrative language related to the flexibility public housing authorities (PHAs) will need to function under the new fiscal constraints. With major disagreements remaining between the House and Senate conferees on public housing reform legislation (H.R.2406/S.1260), the Senate version of H.R.3666 provides for some of the changes PHAs must have to function effectively. These include $25 minimum rents in all assisted housing, elimination of the one-forone replacement requirement pertaining to public housing units and streamlining Section 8 tenantbased assistance.

1997 EPA Appropriations

The Senate approved restoring the $725 million in FY 1996 funding for the newly enacted Safe Drinking Water revolving loan fund (DWSRF) lost because the authorizing statute was not completed before August 1. (The $725 million FY 1996 appropriation was contingent upon completion of a Safe Drinking Water Act reauthorization by August 1 - a deadline missed by less than a week.)

In addition, the Senate appropriated $550 million for the DWSRF for fiscal 1997 thus providing a total of $1.275 billion for the newly revised Safe Drinking Water Act. The House of Representatives, which completed action on the fiscal 1997 appropriations measure in June, appropriates $450 million for the DWSRF for fiscal 1997 having assumed that a drinking water bill would be completed prior to the August 1 deadline thus releasing the previously appropriated $725 million in FY 96 funds. Conferees are expected to approve the Senate restoration of FY 1996 funds.

For the Clean Water Act SRF the Senate approved $700 million for fiscal 1997, while the House appropriated $1.35 billion Since both the Clean Water and the Drinking Water revolving loan funds are considered to be "water infrastructure funding," the Senate, in totaling the clean water and drinking water funds, has appropriated $76 million more for the infrastructure needs than the House but has taken the increase from what was previously available for Clean Water purposes. …