National Priorities Project Helps Consumers Grasp Federal Budget
The National Priorities Project is working to help consumers grasp how the federal budget impacts their daily lives. On Feb. 8, the National Priorities Project released a publication on "The President's Budget: Fiscal Year 2011." This report, found at www.nationalpriorities.org, "reviews presidential budget requests spanning fiscal years 2008 to 2012, which include requested spending authorities from the final Bush budget to the Obama administration's projected 2012 budget." Some of the main goals of President Barack Obama's $3.7 trillion budget for Fiscal Year 2011 are saving and creating jobs for the many unemployed and underemployed Americans; improving access to health care and education; moving away from fossil fuel-based energy sources and toward efforts in energy conservation; and working to reduce the national long-term debt. Communications liaison Chris Hellman said the National Priorities Project, or NPP, works to divide the federal budget into manageable chunks and help people understand how the government's spending affects individuals on the state and local level. This nonprofit research organization, now in its 26th year, is based in Northampton, Mass. This recent analysis of the budget looks at a range of federal programs and is emphasizing education, energy and health care this year, Hellman said. "We try and explain in meaningful ways how what the federal government is doing impacts them in their day-to-day life," he said. "We break down these programs on a state-by-state basis showing how federal dollars are flowing into different states." The NPP database also allows people to look at the relative size of these federal programs, because people often don't understand what the numbers mean, Hellman said. For a couple weeks, the organization's three full-time researchers went through "a painstaking and lengthy process" of studying the budget and going through all the programs and states, he said. The source material was the federal government. The report looks into federal aid provided to the states for the Children's Health Insurance Program, Medicaid, State Energy Program, Weatherization Assistance for Low-Income Persons, Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, Title 1 Grant, Head Start, Community Development Block Grant and Social Services Block Grant. In West Virginia, the federal obligation for the Children's Health Insurance Program was $44.1 million for fiscal year 2009, $45.3 million for 2010, and $44.7 million for 2011. The Weatherization Assistance for Low-Income Persons program received $43.2 million for fiscal year 2009, $2.5 million for '10, and $3.5 million for '11. The Title 1 Grant program was recorded as getting $157.5 million worth of federal aid for fiscal year 2009, $91.5 million for 2010, and $90 million for 2011. The Community Development Block Grant got $35.3 million for fiscal year 2009, $27.1 million for '10, and $27.4 million for '11. Hellman said NPP thinks it's critical to point out that the money the federal government has made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is drying out. Last year, 48 out of the 50 states ran deficits, and the country will see larger deficits cumulatively as those federal stimulus funds continue to be used up. The Obama administration has also included a cap on domestic spending programs that aren't major entitlement programs. Programs for education, food assistance, and promoting alternative energy research, for example, are going to experience a spending freeze for the next three years under this plan, Hellman said. "This is going to be a difficult and interesting year for states as they look at their budget planning," he said. Charts from NPP show a significant drop off in many programs between fiscal years 2010 and 2011, Hellman said. According to the statistics, a lot of programs will evaporate in 2012, and states will have to make significant cuts on an annual basis. "We think that's a cause for concern," he said. Hellman said federal investment is going to be critical to improving this situation. The nation is headed toward a $1.4 trillion deficit this year alone. For more information or to access the full report, visit www.nationalpriorities.org.