Public Policy Update

President George W. Bush sent Congress a $2.57 trillion federal budget for fiscal year (FY) 2006 in February that calls for the deepest domestic reductions proposed since the 1980s. The president's budget eliminates 99 programs (a reduction of $8.8 billion) and substantially reduces 55 others (a reduction of $6.5 billion) for a total decrease of $15.3 billion.

Many of these cuts were proposed in previous budgets and then rejected by Congress. However, 68 of the 154 programs were not targeted by this administration in earlier budgets. They represent mostly education, health and social services programs that the administration has determined to be ineffective or inessential. The Department of Education bears the largest burden for the budget reductions.

In the long term, the fiscal plan envisions holding discretionary spending on domestic programs flat for the next five years to fulfill the president's promise to cut the deficit in half by 2009. An overview of budget highlights for federal agencies of interest to psychology across education, science and public interest is as follows.

Education

President Bush's education budget for FY 2006 calls for $56 billion in discretionary spending, representing a relatively small decrease from last year's level of $56.6 billion. The proposed cuts include the elimination of a number of programs of interest to psychologists, along with others that have served as the foundation of the federal investment in elementary and postsecondary education.

Foremost among the programs targeted for cuts is the Perkins Loan Program, a campus-based aid program that provides low-interest loans to needy students. This program also offers a significant benefit component--the cancellation of loans for students who choose specific career paths, such as teaching. Other programs slated for elimination in the president's budget include the Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities State Grants ($437.4 million); Teacher Quality Enhancement Program ($68.3 million); and the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Program ($34.7 million).

On a brighter note, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which was recently reauthorized, would receive $12.1 billion, a $452.5 million increase over FY 2005. Of that amount, $384.6 million would be available for preschool grants and $441 million would be available for grants for infants and families. Funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers is maintained at $991 million.

The Pell Grant Program received a small boost in the budget, with the president calling for a $500 increase over the next five years to $4,550 for the maximum individual Pell grant; President Bush also requested funds to eliminate the shortfall that has interfered with program operations in years past. The president's budget calls for increasing loan limits in the first two years of borrowing in the government-sponsored lending programs.

Of special significance to APA, the president's budget calls for $1.5 million in continued funding for a new program, Mental and Behavioral Health Services on Campus, to be administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). This program was based on an initiative to improve access to mental and behavioral health services on college campuses; it was developed by APA and sponsored in Congress under the Campus Care and Counseling Act--a bill eventually folded into the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act. APA is pleased that this program received funding for FY 2005 and is working with SAMHSA on its implementation and with congressional leaders to secure funding in FY 2006.

Also, for the fifth year in a row, the president's proposed budget for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) includes a 96 percent reduction from last year's level of $300 million for the Title VII Health Professions Education Programs, which include the Graduate Psychology Education Program. The programs slated for elimination encompass most of the diversity programs and all of the interdisciplinary programs, including Area Health Education Centers, Health Education and Training Centers, geriatric training, Quentin Burdick Rural Training and allied health training. The president's budget does provide $10 million for Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students and $1 million for Workforce Information and Analysis.

The president's budget includes $127 million--$5 million less than the $132 million for FY 2005--for the National Health Service Corps, which is also administered by the Bureau of Health Professions and includes psychologists among its participants. This amounts to level funding, since HRSA will no longer reimburse loan repayment participants for taxes as a result of new legislation that eliminates taxes on those loans. Regarding the federal Community Health Center (CHC) Program, through which many of the National Health Service Corps participants are placed, the president's budget includes a request for $2 billion for FY 2006, an increase of $304 million. This is part of his five-year commitment to double the size of the program and create 1,200 new or expanded sites to benefit an additional 6.1 million underserved people.

Science

The president's proposed budget would cut basic and applied research and development funding by 1 percent or $870 million. However, those decreases are not applied evenly, as slight increases appear for several agencies.

The budget provides $132.3 billion for research and development, including $5.6 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF). This constitutes a 2.4 percent increase and a record NSF funding level. Of this amount, $4.3 billion is slated for the Research and Related Activities account--a $113 million increase over FY 2005 research support. The Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate received about a 1 percent increase in the proposed budget, with substantial funding provided for the NSF-wide research priority area in Human and Social Dynamics. The Education and Human Resources Directorate is slated for a significant proposed cut for FY 2006, due largely to the elimination of programs described by NSF's director as either sun-setting or duplicative with Department of Education programs.

The budget provides $16.5 billion for NASA, a 2.4 percent increase over FY 2005 boosted by the president's Vision for Space Exploration and other agency priorities. It provides $3.2 billion, up 18 percent, for Exploration Systems, which includes $800 million for research and technology focused on human-oriented missions.

The budget includes $479 million for the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), including $164 million in funding for research, development and dissemination. Yet the budget again calls for elimination of $66 million for the regional labs. If Congress once again restores these funds, the IES budget would be increased to more than $500 million.

The National Institutes of Health is slated to receive a meager 0.68 percent increase of $196 million to bring its total FY 2006 budget to a proposed $28.8 billion. The president proposes a $1 million increase for the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities.

The Department of Defense (DoD) Science and Technology account is slated for a heavy blow, falling to a proposed $10.5 billion, a 21 percent decrease from the FY 2005 level of $13.3 billion. Particularly hard-hit were Army basic and applied research programs, some of which were slashed by almost 50 percent. At press time, it was unclear how psychological research would fare within this broader context, but given that research funding is down DoD-wide, the outlook is not optimistic.

Funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) research account was cut. The request for $393 million for direct costs of the VA Medical and Prosthetics Research Program, which supports intramural psychological research, is $9 million or 2.2 percent less than the current spending level. The Friends of VA Coalition, of which APA is a member, estimates that this proposal would result in 62 fewer grants funded by, and 270 research positions eliminated within, the VA in FY 2006.

Reflecting the administration's continuing concern about domestic terrorism, the Department of Homeland Security was one of the big budget winners, with a proposed increase of 7 percent over FY 2005. Although science and technology programs account for only 3 percent of the overall budget, they will actually receive a 22.7 percent increase. But the lion's share of that money is going toward a Domestic Nuclear Detection Office.

Public interest

The president's budget proposal for the Administration on Children and Families (ACF) maintains most child welfare spending at current levels. This includes funding for Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act basic state grants and community-based prevention grants, which would remain at $27 million and $43.2 million, respectively.

Funding for Head Start, which provides comprehensive services for the nation's most vulnerable infants, toddlers and preschoolers, is also slated for level funding in FY 2006. As a result of inflation, as many as 25,000 children could lose Head Start and Early Head Start services. Yet, the administration's budget provides $45 million to fund a nine-state pilot program to implement the administration's controversial block grant proposal for Head Start.

Child Care and Development Block Grant funds are proposed to be maintained at the current level. Other child care and early education programs, such as Even Start and Early Learning Opportunity Act grants are completely eliminated in the president's budget.

The proposed ACF budget also includes a cut of $1.2 billion for the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. The president's proposal also adds $100 million for a matching grant program for states and tribes to develop innovative approaches to healthy marriages and $100 million to fund research, demonstrations and technical assistance targeted to family formation and healthy marriage.

Even though the number of poor Americans went up for the third straight year in 2003 and the number of people lacking health insurance rose to 45 million in 2003 (the highest on record), the president proposed cutting Medicaid by $45 billion over 10 years. Medicaid is the largest federal funder of mental health services.

The proposed FY 2006 funding level for juvenile justice programs at the Department of Justice represents a 46 percent decrease from $346.5 million to $186.7 million. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention budget is slated to be reduced by over two-thirds, from $3 million to a proposed $700,000. Funds for Title V Local Delinquency Prevention are cut by over a half, from $79.4 million to a proposed $32.3 million. The Juvenile Accountability Block Grant is once again slated for elimination.

The FY 2006 proposed budget of $3.2 billion for SAMHSA includes a decrease of $55.7 million for mental health and substance abuse services. The proposed budget for the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) includes a decrease of $64 million to $837 million. The proposed cuts will come entirely from the CMHS Programs of Regional and National Significance. On a positive note, there is a proposed increase of $566,000 over the current level of $4 million for the Minority Fellowship Program. However, the budget also includes a decrease of $26 million for the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment Programs of Regional and National Significance. Yet, the Access to Recovery State Voucher program is slated for an additional $50 million for a total of $150 million to support faith-based and community organization providers of substance abuse treatment services.

Under the budget proposal for the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of Minority Health receives a $3 million cut, and both the Office on Women's Health and the Minority HIV/AIDS budgets are frozen.

Under HRSA, the president proposes freezing the Title X family planning program and the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant. The president's budget includes a $10 million increase for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program. This program is due for reauthorization this year, as the president noted in his State of the Union address.

The president proposes a cut of $491 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Under his budget proposal, the HIV/AIDS, STDs and TB Center receive a $4 million cut, and the budgets for both the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and the Center for Occupational Safety and Health are frozen for FY 2006.