Public Policy Update

Most political insiders would agree that the federal appropriations process is more art than science. But when Congress delivered the fiscal year 2005 catchall spending bill, much of the artwork was missing. Funding for many domestic discretionary programs ended up as flat as the wall on which Edvard Munch's most famous (now stolen) painting once hung.

Although fiscal year 2005 officially started on Oct. 1, 2004, delays in congressional action on all but two of the 14 governmental spending bills left much of the work undone until well after the Nov. 2 election. Such delays are not uncommon in election years, as campaign schedules tend to drive the congressional calendar. Additionally, delaying the appropriations process can also provide cover for candidates from either party who would prefer not to be viewed as spendthrifts. However, the outcome of this election, which enhanced the Republican majority in both the House and Senate, heralds an era of increased fiscal restraint that is likely to dominate funding with dramatic ramifications for psychologists in research, education and the public interest.

So while it's good news that the $388 billion omnibus spending bill was finally signed into law on Dec. 8, the finished product will leave many wanting. A record budget deficit, the unknowable costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the price of a planned social security overhaul have placed enormous pressures on the Bush administration to rein in domestic spending. As such, federal agency heads receiving funding at or around inflationary levels were the lucky ones in what appears to be a bleak forecast of future spending. Following are highlights of funding outcomes for some key federal agencies for which APA's Public Policy Office targeted its advocacy efforts.

Department of Health and Human Services

Congressional supporters managed a small increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but its appropriation will be whittled down by several across-the-board cuts. The agency's appropriation for fiscal year 2005 is $28.5 billion, just short of a 3-percent increase. However, after the 0.8-percent across-the-board cut to domestic programs, plus a 0.25-percent tap to fund other Public Health Service programs such as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, NIH is left with $27.9 billion. NIH must also find money for a federal employee pay raise of 3.5 percent, which was not part of the initial budget.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will receive $3.295 billion for fiscal year 2005, an increase of $62 million over fiscal year 2004. The Center for Mental Health Services will receive an increase of $38.9 million, for a total of $901 million. The Children's Mental Health program received $105.2 million, a $2.8 million increase over last year's funding but $800,000 below the president's request. The Programs of Regional and National Significance (PRNS) will receive $276.6 million, an increase of $33.5 from fiscal year 2004. The newly established State Incentive Grants program will receive $20 million. With the concerted advocacy of APA's public interest policy staff, SAMHSA's Minority Fellowship Program will receive an additional $1 million for a total of $4 million. APA's Minority Fellowship Program, which is funded by SAMHSA, recently celebrated its 30th year of training minority mental health professionals to provide culturally competent, accessible mental health and substance abuse services for diverse populations. The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) will receive $425.94 million for PRNS, an increase of $3.3 million over fiscal year 2004. CSAT's Access to Recovery Program will be levelly funded at $100 million.

The National Center for Injury Control and Prevention of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will receive a $2 million increase over fiscal year 2004 for a total budget of $138.305 million. The center's priorities include intimate partner violence, sexual violence, child maltreatment, youth violence and suicide, with elder abuse and global violence prevention as emerging areas of interest.

To address the other part of its mission, CDC's chronic disease prevention initiatives receive approximately $55 million over last year's budgeted amount (see page 66). These gains include an increase of $15 million for tobacco prevention, $6 million for STEPS to a Healthier U.S. Program, $5 million for prevention centers, and $4 million for diabetes prevention. The CDC childhood obesity prevention program receives approximately $60 million in funding.

In the Administration for Children and Families, the domestic violence hotline will receive a $268,000 increase to $3.25 million--$250,000 over the president's request. Shelters for battered women will receive a $1 million increase to $126.65 million, more than the level funding requested by the president. The budget for Head Start is increasing by $124 million over last year's level, bringing total fiscal year 2005 funding to $6.9 billion, $45 million less than the president's request. The bill grants President Bush's request of $2.1 billion to the Child Care and Development Block Grant, a $12 million increase over last year for this major funding source for state child-care programs and the primary support for families who cannot afford quality child care. As requested by the administration, the Promoting Safe and Stable Families program is funded at the same level of $305 million.

The federal year 2005 omnibus appropriations bill provides significant increases in funding for the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) basic state grants and community-based prevention programs. While neither program ended up with the double funding recommended by the president's budget, the percent increases were substantially higher than those for most other domestic programs in the funding bill. CAPTA Basic State Grants are funded at $27.5 million, a 25 percent increase, and CAPTA Title II: Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention Grants are funded at $43.205 million, a 30 percent increase. CAPTA discretionary funds for research and innovation grants will receive level funding of $26.3 million, as proposed in the president's budget.

Despite the tough budgetary climate, APA education policy staff succeeded in advocating for $4.5 million in level funding for the Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) Program in the Bureau of Health Professions at the Health Resources and Services Administration. Most of the Title VII Health Professions Programs were also funded at the same level, except for Primary Care Medical and Dental, which received an increase of more than 8 percent (for a total of $88.8 million) to compensate for the significant cut (11.5 percent) it sustained last year.

The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) received a 22.6 percent reduction in its fiscal year 2005 budget. However, this is not expected to result in less support for health professions because of provisions in the corporate tax relief bill. Specifically, the bill makes financial support from the NHSC programs tax exempt, and, as a result, the NHSC will no longer need to provide payments to cover the taxes. There are over 1,100 mental health professional shortage areas, and interested psychologists can apply for funding.

In October, President Bush signed into law the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, which will be administered by SAMHSA and incorporates a number of provisions from the APA-proposed Campus Care and Counseling Act. While the bill provides legislative authority for the campus mental health component, unfortunately, no funds were appropriated in fiscal year 2005 for this purpose. APA supports the efforts of the bill sponsors who are sending a letter to SAMHSA's administrator requesting that $1 million be allocated for the campus mental health program. Nevertheless, APA will advocate for funding during the fiscal year 2006 appropriations process.

Department of Education

Overall, the bill provides a $1.4 billion increase for the Department of Education, to a total of $57 billion. Funding for educationally disadvantaged children under the No Child Left Behind Act program, the administration's landmark education reform effort, increased by $500 million to $12.8 billion, which is $500 million short of the president's request.

Special Education Grants are funded at $11.5 billion, $415 million below the request and $607 million above fiscal year 2004. Authority for special education research has also been moved from the Office of Special Education Programs to the Institute for Education Sciences as a result of the recent reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The bill provides level funding of $999.1 million for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, the same amount requested by the president for this program, which provides expanded academic enrichment opportunities for children attending low-performing schools.

Funding for the Institute of Education Sciences increased to $527 million. However, the research, development and dissemination portion remains stagnant at $165 million, $20 million less than the president's budget.

Most of the higher education programs received flat funding, including the Work Study Program, Perkins Loan Repayment, Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need and the Javits Fellowship Program. Only the Pell Grant Program received an increase of $458 million, with the maximum grant remaining at $4,050 for the third year.

The elementary and secondary education programs fared better in the appropriations process than did the higher education programs. The Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Program increased from $33.8 million to $35 million, and the Alcohol Abuse Reduction Program increased from $29.8 million to $33 million. However, the Safe and Drug Free Schools Program was flatly funded at $440.9 million. Funding for IDEA increased from $11.2 billion to $11.8 billion.

Other federal agencies

Funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), provided by one of the two bills passed on schedule, reflects the nation's current priorities and the anticipation of future domestic terrorist attacks. However, despite recognition that humans perpetrate terrorism, the bill appears to focus mostly on microbes and molecules, as most of the funding is oriented toward countermeasures for weapons of mass destruction (i.e., chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear agents). Countering that apparent slight will be the bill's establishment of a University Based Center of Excellence in Behavioral and Social Aspects of Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism. Many APA members had submitted center proposals but the award had not yet been announced at Monitor press time. Additionally, threats to gut the DHS Scholars and Fellows program, where psychologists continue to compete well, were averted with a final appropriation of $70 million.

The Department of Defense (DoD) also received its fiscal year 2005 funding via a freestanding appropriations bill signed into law this summer. The good news is that the Science and Technology account, which funds basic and applied research, is up 10.3 percent over fiscal year 2004 funding for a total of $12.77 billion. The bad news is that the increase does not "trickle down" proportionately to benefit DoD behavioral science programs. The fiscal year 2005 bill contained more cuts to human-centered research, with basic behavioral research remaining essentially flat and both the Air Force and Army sustaining deep, detrimental cuts to their applied behavioral research programs. APA science policy staff worked with Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) to insert language into the final defense appropriations conference report urging DoD to fully support and fund its behavioral research programs. But in the same report, the committee singled out Air Force basic human performance research for a $3 million cut.

An across-the-board, 0.8 percent cut to all domestic programs was instituted in part to provide additional funding for Bush Administration and congressional priorities, including NASA. Faring well compared with those of its sister agencies, NASA's budget increases by 4.5 percent to a total of $16.1 billion in fiscal year 2005, although support for research and development (R&D) increases by only 2 percent. While long-term, NASA R&D will have to address a range of psychology issues involved in trying to send humans to Mars, fiscal year 2005 funding will focus on returning the space shuttle to flight, a Hubble telescope repair mission and continued construction of the International Space Station.

After accounting for the across-the-board cut, the total fiscal year 2005 budget for the National Science Foundation will shrink by $105 million, or 1.9 percent from the fiscal year 2004 funding level, to $5.47 billion. Although the Education and Human Resources Directorate will absorb the majority of the cut, the research account was essentially frozen for the first time in almost 20 years, and the across-the-board cut puts it $30.8 million below fiscal year 2004 funding.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Medical and Prosthetics Research program, (which includes support for most psychological research), received the Senate's funding mark of almost $406 million for fiscal year 2005, which translates to a total of $402.3 million with the across-the-board cut. This represents a decrease of $3.24 million or 0.8 percent over fiscal year 2004 funding for a program that has remained essentially flat in recent years.

Take action to support psychological funding

APA's Public Policy Office will continue to advocate for increased funding for these vital federal programs in the next appropriations cycle. The active involvement of APA members as psychologists and constituents will be critical in this effort. For more information on appropriations and other federal policy issues, please visit the APA Public Policy Office Web site.