Sequester Talking Points! Hat Tip: NDD Coalition

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The Appropriations Caps and Sequestration Are a Serious and Growing Problem, Despite the Tiny Nominal Increase Allowed in 2016  


Our friends at the Non-Defense Discretionary (NDD) Steering Committee created the following talking points about sequestration and its impact on NDD programs, including education. Feel free to use these talking points as you communicate with your House and Senate members as they work on through their budget and appropriations process:  

  • While total non-defense appropriations will increase slightly in 2016 even if sequestration is fully implemented, that increase will fall far short of what would be needed just to keep up with inflation or address high-priority needs, let alone make up for any of ground lost over the past several years.  
  • The Budget Control Act of 2011, which established the appropriations caps and sequestration, specifies that sequestration cuts in 2014 and all subsequent years are to be implemented by reducing the caps that would otherwise apply (rather than by across-the-board cuts as in 2013). For 2016, the pre-sequestration caps were scheduled to increase by 1.9 percent, but sequestration will eliminate almost all of that increase.
  • Without sequestration relief, the cap on non-defense appropriations for 2016 will be just 0.2 percent ($1.1 billion) above the 2015 level. That’s $8.6 billion less than what would be needed just to keep up with even the modest level of expected inflation. The defense situation is similar: an increase of just 0.3 percent or $1.8 billion.
  • With the spending caps essentially flat, 2016 will be the sixth year of austerity in non-defense appropriations. In four of the previous five years, the total has either decreased in actual dollar terms or increased only slightly.  
  • By 2016 the cumulative effect will be substantial. When adjusted just for general inflation, the 2016 cap on non-defense appropriations will be 17 percent (or $103 billion) below the 2010 level. The cumulative reduction in defense appropriations is only a little smaller: 15 percent or $94 billion. These are, of course, only averages. Within both categories some things have been cut considerably less and other things considerably more.  
  • The effects of the caps and sequestration are even more dramatic when measured relative to the size of the economy. Outlays for non-defense appropriated programs are projected to be 3.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016—equal to the lowest percentage recorded at any point since 1962, which is as far back as data go on this basis. With the caps and sequestration fully in place, the percentage is expected to then set a new record low in 2017 and to continue dropping in subsequent years.  
  • One result of these limits is that increases even for high-priority needs become difficult to accomplish, as almost any increases require offsetting cuts or savings. After five previous years of cutting, feasible and acceptable cuts are getting harder and harder to find. And even for things that haven’t been cut in dollar terms, the cumulative erosion of purchasing power is growing.  
  • Unless the cap on non-defense appropriations is raised, it will be virtually impossible for Congress to approve important increases in the President's budget such as $1.5 billion to expand Head Start for low-income children, a $1 billion increase for Title I education funds to improve services for students in high-poverty schools, $1.8 billion over the 2015 level for the Housing Choice Voucher program to expand access for affordable housing, and new investments in research and development throughout the government (including additional funding of $1 billion for the National Institutes of Health and $379 million for the National Science Foundation  .

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