Congress to Resume Spending Bill Discussions on Heels of 2011 Logjams

Piggy bank sits on top of American flagWhen the 112th Congress wrapped up its first session in December, it left behind a legacy of partisanship that caused public approval ratings to reach historic lows.

As of mid-December, Congress had passed the fewest number of bills since 1995. Legislators’ inability to reach an agreement on how to manage the budget and reduce debt triggered across-the-board spending cuts for 2012, and a lack of consensus on fiscal policy also contributed to the failure of President Obama’s $447 billion job creation package.

In the face of these logjams, Congress managed to clear a three-year minibus bill for 2012 appropriations in November, and included the remaining nine spending bills in an omnibus passed in December. It also declared a two-month extension of the expiring payroll tax and jobless aid provisions to assist the long-term unemployed.

Priorities for Early 2012

As the second session kicks into gear this month, lawmakers will have to work quickly on payroll tax relief, emergency unemployment benefits, and reauthorization of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), all of which were only extended through February.

Goodwill® looks forward to Congress addressing several other issues of importance to the enterprise and the people we serve including:

  • Farm Bill Reauthorization: House and Senate committee leaders have noted they will seek $23 billion in reductions. The bill will set policy in a variety of areas including food stamps.
  • Elementary and Secondary Education Act Reauthorization: The Senate committee approved a bill during the last session. House Republicans plan to move forward with their own package after negotiations with Democrats halted.
  • Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Reauthorization: House Republican committee leaders will use three bills recently introduced for the foundation for a Workforce Investment Act (WIA) bill while Senate committee leaders continue negotiating.
  • Older Americans Act (OAA) Reauthorization: The OAA contains provisions pertaining to the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) and is important to Goodwill as a national grantee. A bill was introduced in the Senate shortly before the first session adjourned.

State Legislation in the New Year

Thirty-eight state legislatures will also reconvene this month after passing nearly 40,000 new laws last year. Last year, most states focused primarily on budget cuts and generating new revenues leading to an increase in state and local initiatives to tax and charge fees to nonprofits. In addition, four states passed job creation packages that included a tax incentive.

Inaction from Congress will impact state policy agendas for 2012 as states will continue to have to make difficult spending choices. Other priority areas include immigration, transportation funding, taxes, K-12 education reform, health care exchanges and job creation.