Public Policy Update

Although fiscal year (FY) 2004 officially started on Oct. 1, 2003, delays in congressional action on half of the 14 bills to fund federal agencies left much of the work incomplete until well after the start of the new year. Unfortunately, this has become a pattern in recent years, creating angst for federal agencies and the psychologists they support in research, education and the public interest.

While it is good news that the $820 billion omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government for FY 2004 was finally signed into law on Jan. 23, the finished product will leave many wanting.

The reason? A relatively flat spending bill with spikes in funding for defense and homeland security means that a variety of popular discretionary spending programs have to yield to a changing set of priorities. On balance, overall spending reflects an administration committed to tax cuts, while at the same time trying to recover from a post-9/11 recession and the cost of war. The net result is a record $521 billion deficit.

And process may indeed prevail over substance in election-year spending decisions for FY 2005. A sense that the majority party in Congress did not play fair in the FY 2004 endgame, coupled with extremely difficult choices and a short legislative calendar, has set the stage for unprecedented partisanship in both the House of Representatives and Senate. That said, APA Public Policy Office staff offer this redux of where we are and where we are headed:

Funding for psychological science in FY 2004

The FY 2004 omnibus spending bill provided a record-setting $127 billion for federal research and development. However, the Department of Defense (DoD) accounted for 80 percent of that increase. Other research agencies did not fare as well.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) received an additional $847 million, for a total of $27.1 billion--a modest 3 percent increase after five years of 15 percent increases. Congress provided a 5 percent increase for the National Science Foundation (NSF), with a total budget of $5.6 billion--$4.1 billion of which is allocated for research and related activities. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) received a 2.5 percent increase, bringing its research budget to $820 million.

Prospects for psychological science in FY 2005

President Bush's FY 2005 budget requests a disappointingly modest 2.6 percent increase for NIH, bringing its funding to $28.8 billion. NIH would fund an additional 258 research project grants with its increase, but growth in numbers would mean layered cuts in funding for all research projects.

NSF's FY 2005 budget request of $5.75 billion represents a 3 percent increase over FY 2004 to fund five top "priority areas," including the behavioral research area, "Human and Social Dynamics." In addition, the budget includes a new $5 million Innovation Fund to enable NSF to respond rapidly to emerging activities at the frontiers of learning and continues funding for NSF's Science of Learning Centers.

The DoD budget includes a request for the Science and Technology Account (basic and applied research) of $10.55 billion. This is 12.7 percent less than last year. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is slated for a 10.5 percent increase in the President's budget--which represents more than $1 billion for research and development. Within DHS, the Directorate of Science and Technology serves as a centralized research and development arm that seeks to engage scientists in the fight against terrorism.

The Institute of Education Sciences request includes $185 million--a $20 million increase--in funding for research, development and dissemination. This is to support research programs on cognition, student learning and interventions to improve education. Another $78 million is slated for research and innovation in special education research.

The VA's research account would take a 6.1 percent cut in the President's budget request for FY 2005, from $820 million to $770 million.

Third year of funding for psychology training

Congress has renewed its commitment to the Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) Program, which provides grants for psychology, including doctoral, postdoctoral and internship programs. GPE funding for FY 2004 remains at $4.5 million, allowing for the continuation of the seven geropsychology training grants at approximately $250,000 each and for about 26 new general training grants focused on underserved children, chronically ill persons and victims of trauma or abuse for about $150,000 each per year for three years.

Once again, the health professions education programs are a target for President Bush's cost-cutting measures. If the President's FY 2005 budget is accepted by Congress, the training programs would sustain a devastating reduction of $283 million; the remaining $11 million would fund the Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students program and health professions data collection. However, the National Health Service Corps--which provides loan repayments to psychologists and other eligible health professionals in exchange for serving in rural areas--would receive a $35 million increase for a total of $205 million.

Wins and losses for education programs

The President's budget for FY 2005 seeks an increase of $1 billion (3 percent) for certain vital federal education programs--totaling $13.3 billion for Title I for disadvantaged children and $12.2 billion for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The Safe and Drug Free Schools national program would increase from $233 million to $275 million, while the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program would be funded at the same level as last year at $999 million. However, the President's budget proposes eliminating the following critical programs: Elementary and Secondary School Counseling, Gifted and Talented, Even Start family literacy and Alcohol Abuse Prevention. Educational research funding would increase by $20 million, but the regional educational research labs would be eliminated, losing their current funding of $67 million.

The President's budget for higher education maintains most of the programs at current levels. While the proposed budget increases funding by $823 million for the Pell Grant program (which provides aid to the most financially needy students), it would still maintain the maximum Pell Grant at the FY 2004 level of $4,050 per student.

Funding for the public interest in jeopardy

The President's FY 2005 budget proposes merging federal Medicaid and State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) funds and capping the amount of federal money spent on these programs. This would hinder states' ability to respond to the growing and changing health-care needs of their residents. Access to health care would be at risk for millions of low-income people, children, seniors and people with disabilities. The lack of increased funding proposed in the President's budget for such vital programs as the Child Care and Development Block Grant and the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Program would also adversely affect low-income families who are striving for financial independence.

Funding increases proposed for mental health and substance abuse

The proposed FY 2005 budget for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration includes an increase of $199 million for mental health and substance abuse services, yielding a proposed $3.6 billion budget for the agency. The budget for the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) includes an increase of $51 million, or 5.8 percent above FY 2004, for a total of $912.5 million. This includes an increase of $1.4 million, for a total of $436.1 million for the Mental Health Block Grant. The budget also includes $270.5 million for Programs of Regional and National Significance at CMHS and $517 million for the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. The President's budget includes $200 million for the Access to Recovery State Voucher program (doubling last year's amount) to support faith-based and community organization providers of substance abuse treatment services.

Mixed funding picture for child welfare programs

The FY 2004 omnibus spending bill adopted the President's FY 2004 budget proposal to level-fund most child welfare programs. On a positive front, the President's FY 2005 budget proposes a 50-percent increase for the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act from $90 million to $134 million.

Further Reading

As the FY 2005 appropriations process continues, APA's Public Policy Office will advocate vigorously on behalf of psychological science, education and the public interest. Visit APA Government Relations for a more detailed picture of the proposed FY 2005 budget and appropriations of particular relevance to psychology. To get involved, e-mail ppo@apa.org.