By Daniel Sheehan
AFOP Executive Director
“There’s a certain philosophy wrapped up in the budget and that is — we are no longer going to measure compassion by the number of programs or the number of people on those programs.We’re not going to measure our success by how much money we spend, but by how many people we actually help.”
— White House OMB Director Mick Mulvaney
Welcome to budget season in Washington, D.C., when the projections for economic growth are rosy and inflation assumptions are flat.
This week it is President Donald J. Trump’s turn to recommend to Congress a spending and revenue plan that stresses his administration’s fiscal priorities. In doing so, he will communicate to the American people his vision for our nation’s future. Sadly, migrant and seasonal farmworker advancement will have no part in that future.
Before digging into the president’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposal, I would like to revisit our old friend Fiscal Year 2017. On May 5, 2017, a full seven months after the target date for enactment, the president signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 as Public Law 115-31, bringing the unnecessarily delayed fiscal year 2017 appropriations process to an end. I say “unnecessarily delayed” because the final spending measure could have easily been passed late last year, but the new administration requested the process be put on hold. I am very happy to report that Congress level funded the National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP) for fiscal year 2017, making clear its support for the program at current spending levels. Those funds will become available to NFJP grantees July 1, 2017 and run through June 30, 2018. Congratulations to all NFJP farmworker-training organizations for their unwavering commitment to serving migrant and seasonal farmworkers and families, and for their continued outstanding successes in doing so.
Turning to fiscal year 2018 spending, President Trump sent to Congress today a budget plan that recommends deep cuts in non-defense discretionary spending to offset a massive increase in defense and homeland security funding. As a part of that plan, he would reduce Labor Department funding significantly, including the zeroing out of the NFJP line item. This is an unfortunate development, but not wholly unexpected given the administration’s recent efforts to eliminate NFJP funding in fiscal year 2017.
As you would expect, the anti-poverty community is vociferously opposed to the president’s plan. According to the Coalition on Human Needs:
The Trump Budget is … the most draconian budget in modern history. In so many ways, this budget breaks promises and deceives about its true impact. It disinvests in America. The basic living standards that everyone needs – enough food, health care, and housing – are shredded, not strengthened. The budget would massively transfer money that should be invested in all our people to a handful of millionaires and profitable corporations, through multi-trillions in tax cuts that would average $50,000 each for millionaires. (Read full statement here.)
In addition, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) has blasted the president’s recommendations, calling them a path to a new Gilded Age, a term derived from Mark Twain’s novel The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, which satirized an era of serious social problems masked by a thin gold gilding of the very wealthiest. As CBPP puts it:
President Trump’s new budget should lay to rest any belief that he’s looking out for the millions of people the economy has left behind. He proposes steep cuts in basic health, nutrition, and other important assistance for tens of millions of struggling, low- and modest-income Americans, even as he calls for extremely large tax cuts for the nation’s wealthiest people and profitable corporations.
This disturbing budget would turn the United States into a coarser nation, making life harder for most of those struggling to get by but more luxurious for those at the very top. Most Americans do not seek a new Gilded Age. And the budget is sharply at odds with what the president told voters he would do during his campaign. With this budget, the President betrays many voters who placed their trust in him.In fact, this stands as the most radical, Robin-Hood-in-reverse budget that any modern president has ever proposed. (Read full statement here.)
As an association, we have our work cut out for us. Yes, members are diligent about educating decision-makers about the continuing importance of, need for, and tremendous success of the federal farmworker program. And, yes, I have made sure that the administration and lawmakers have the necessary information about the program to preserve it going forward. And, yes, we continue to engage every way we can to ensure this vital mission – giving farmworkers a hand-up, not a hand-out, to a more stable and family-sustaining career – continues. That is our goal. We will not flinch in pursuit of it.
By Daniel Sheehan
AFOP Executive Director
The White House has announced the overall discretionary appropriations totals President Trump plans to include in his first budget request (for fiscal year 2018) later this year. The president will propose an immediate nine-percent increase in defense spending to $603 billion, offset by an aggregate 11-percent decrease in non-defense appropriations to $462 billion. White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the $54 billion increase in defense spending is one of the largest increases in history, and that cuts to the topline non-defense number will be the largest proposed reduction since the early years of the Reagan Administration.
Before this plan can go into effect, Congress must first adjust the annual statutory caps on discretionary appropriations (enacted in the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011) prior to enactment of the yearly appropriations bills. Unless the spending caps are amended, another round of across-the-board sequestration cuts will automatically be ordered and will reduce defense spending back to the spending cap levels. The caps – one for defense and the other for all other discretionary spending – are already scheduled to decrease in 2018 by a combined $5.2 billion below the 2017 levels, as required by BCA. The aggregate cut in non-defense discretionary spending under the Trump plan, measured versus the FY 2017 cap level (by which the pending 2017 appropriations bills must abide) would be a reduction of about 11 percent in total.
However, DOL may see a different level of spending reductions. A senior Republican appropriator is quoted as saying that everyone knows that Congress is never going to cut Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs (indeed, President Trump has indicated that veterans funding may actually be increased), so you have to back those programs out of any assumptions of aggregate cuts in non-defense spending in order to determine the overall level of cuts in other non-defense programs. After Homeland and Veterans are held harmless, the aggregate cuts to the remainder of non-defense spending get even worse, to a reported total reduction of 14.1 percent.
Congressional Democrats are certain to oppose these massive spending reductions, but some Republicans, particularly those on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, will oppose them, too. After all, they are the ones who have to try to write bills that can get enough votes to pass each chamber. In addition, Republicans on the various authorizing committees that oversee federal agencies may not like the proposed cuts either.
The way the traditional budget process is supposed to work is like this:
- The president submits a budget request, ideally in early February, but new presidents in their first year get a grace period.
- The House and Senate take the president’s overall spending and tax totals and priorities into consideration, then pass a congressional budget resolution that sets the spending and tax totals that will govern which bills can be considered in Congress for the remainder of the year. This resolution also gives the Appropriations Committees one big lump sum of money to spend in the upcoming year, which they subdivide as they see fit.
- The Appropriations Committees write their annual spending bills.
The BCA spending caps complicate the traditional process. No matter what discretionary spending levels the president proposes in his budget, and no matter what lump sum the congressional budget resolution gives to the Appropriations Committees, if total defense appropriations for the year exceed the BCA cap level, another round of sequestration is ordered to reduce defense spending back to the cap level. Similarly, if total non-defense spending exceeds the cap level, sequestration automatically cuts it back.
The $54 billion increase in defense spending proposed by the White House will not be possible unless Congress first amends the Budget Control Act to fix the spending caps. And the $54 billion in non-defense spending cuts proposed by the White House, even if enacted into law, can’t be used to offset the defense spending increase unless Congress first amends the BCA to fix the caps.
So the big issue for FY18, obviously, is the fate of legislation to amend the spending caps. Any legislation changing the spending cap levels will have to get 60 votes in the Senate (unless Senate Republicans decide to invoke the “nuclear option” and get rid of the filibuster as it pertains to legislation). Indeed, it is hard to imagine eight Democratic senators voting to break a filibuster or waiving points of order to approve a $54 billion cut in non-defense spending, even if it does offset a $54 billion increase in defense spending. And such a high level of non-defense cuts would probably lose a handful of Republican Senate votes, as well.
In the absence of agreement on a law amending the spending caps, either bipartisan or partisan, the levels written into current law would remain in place, which would mean a $3.2 billion cut in total non-defense discretionary spending in 2018 (compared to 2017) instead of the president’s proposed $54 billion cut. A much better, but still painful scenario.
From Daniel Sheehan, AFOP Executive Director
November 15, 2016
In a surprise to many pollsters and pundits, and much of the general public, businessman Donald J. Trump on November 8 won the 2016 presidential election and is now moving forward with this transition team as president-elect to set up a new government. AFOP wishes him and the new administration well in their efforts to work for the public good in behalf of all in this great nation of ours.
Many in the anti-poverty community are understandably worried about what a Trump Administration will mean for their work in supporting the very poorest among us, given some of the president-elect’s more strident rhetoric on the campaign trail. With the White House, United States Senate, and United States House of Representatives now under Republican control for the first time in more than a decade, these service-providers are concerned that Congress, with the White House’s blessing, will make drastic cuts in domestic spending to pay for large increases in defense. While that remains to be seen, these anti-poverty groups have vowed to defend the programs and the funding they feel are the very fabric of the nation’s safety net.
In regard to the highly successful and critically needed National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP), there is really no telling at this point what the change in administrations will mean going forward. While it is true that NFJP, year in and year out, exceeds the United States Department of Labor’s national program performance goals, providing life-changing training and related assistance to some of the hardest to reach and hardest to serve in America, and while it is also true that the 2014 Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act lengthened the NFJP grant term to four years, one must understand that these new, longer grant awards are subject to the future availability of appropriated funds. NFJP’s fiscal year 2016 appropriations are in place through June 30, 2017, but Congress has not yet finalized fiscal year 2017 spending, and now may not until after President-elect Trump’s inauguration. Should the president-elect seek to eliminate NFJP funding, we at the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP), the non-profit organizations and state entities that deliver NFJP services to migrant and seasonal farmworkers, must make a concerted effort to educate policymakers about the importance of the program, its tremendous reach throughout the country, and why it is necessary to sustain the nation’s commitment to assisting farmworkers and their families earn more stable and secure employment, both inside and outside of agriculture. NFJP service-providers have mounted such an effort before, and are ready to do so again.
A request by the new administration to zero out NFJP is far from a given, however. The president-elect has expressed support for the idea of job training for individuals to meet the unmet demand of employers for qualified workers. Also, the president-elect, who prides himself on having created thousands of jobs as a businessman, has sworn to be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created.” During a September campaign speech, he said he has a plan to add 25 million jobs to the market over the next 10 years. While he included few specifics at the time, he did say he would replace “bureaucrats who ‘only know how to kill jobs’ with ‘jobs-creation experts.’” In addition, the idea of generating and filling more jobs shares bipartisan support. According to the Gallup’s Election Benchmark Survey, 88 percent of Democrat-leaning voters and 80 percent of Republican-leaning voters call the issue of above average importance, a fact that both sides of the aisle seem to appreciate.
Lastly, we can be heartened by the fact that the president-elect sounded a unifying tone in his victory speech in the early morning hours of November 9. It is my very real hope that, with the election now behind us, the president-elect is sincere in his remarks.
“Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division, we have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say, it is time for us to come together as one united people,” Trump said. “I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me.”
“For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I’m reaching out to you,” Trump said. “For your guidance and your help, so that we can work together and unify our great country.”
In closing, please take time to review an easy-to-read primer on how the federal budget process works, linked here, as produced by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. It provides all the necessary information needed to understand and follow the federal budget process during what is certain to be a changed and challenging year.
John David Arnold PhD, the CEO and Founder of Portable Practical Educational Preparation, Inc., has been selected as a 2016 recipient of the Reconocimiento Ohtli Award, one of the highest awards given by the Government of Mexico.
The Ohtli Award was conceived to recognize and honor Mexican, Mexican-American or Latino leaders whose efforts have contributed significantly to the wellbeing, prosperity and empowerment of Mexican communities abroad. Ohtli is a Nahuatl word that means “pathway,” or camino in Spanish. The Institute for Mexicans Abroad, part of the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, annually grants the Ohtli Award, which consists of a medal, a silver rosette, and a diploma. This acknowledgment honors people who have dedicated most of their lives and career to “blazing a trail” abroad for younger generations of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans as they strive to achieve their dreams.
“Estimados; With great humility and gratitude to the Government of Mexico for nominating me for the prestigious award known as Reconocimiento Ohtli. It recognizes the exceptional life achievements of individuals dedicated to service to the community. Especially to those nationals living and working here. It is a very special moment for me. As a child I lived, and was schooled in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico . I know first hand how it is to live in a foreign country. A new language, culture, and customs. However, I am very indebted to that experience. Had it not happened my life’s pathway would have been very different. Most of all, I would not have this opportunity to thank each and everyone of you that helped me along the way. Making possible all that we have accomplished together. The best way to sum it up is the words of Cesar Chavez; Si Se Puede. Because of him and all of you, together say Si Se Pudo!, Si Se Podra! Gracias!”
The induction and award ceremony will be held on September 18th at 7:30 pm at the Casino Del Sol Amphitheater in Tucson, AZ. For further information, please contact Connie Martinez at (520) 591-5600
Although the year has hardly begun, the script seems already written for a difficult year for the budget and subsequent appropriations bills. If so, we can likely expect lawmakers to resort this fall to some form of a continuing resolution (CR) and/or a post-election omnibus spending package to complete the final business of the 114th Congress.
Washington calls each presidential election year the “silly season” for good reason. It is a time when serious legislating slows as elected officials seek to make political statements at the expense of compromise in an attempt to help their own election chances and/or that of their political party’s nominee for president.
At the outset of the silly season, things looked to be rather less silly and more much substantive. New House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) and his budget and appropriations leaders all said they would return House processes to “regular order,” in which legislation moves from subcommittee to full committee and to the House floor for open consideration of amendments and passage. New Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) echoed that sentiment. With that commitment in hand, the House and Senate Budget Committees began the process by drafting Congress’s spending blue print for the upcoming fiscal year 2017, set to begin October 1, 2016.
This optimism was understandable. After all, Congress and the White House late last year agreed to a plan setting higher defense and non-defense spending limits for this year and next, partially offset by certain program cuts.
Trouble for leadership started in January, however, when House conservatives, the so-called “Freedom Caucus,” said they want an extra $30 billion in cuts to non-defense funding. As a result of that call for cuts, budgeteers have slowed their work to a crawl as leadership decides how to overcome this divide.
Compounding matters is the fact that the Freedom Caucus is also demanding inclusion in the 12 yearly appropriations bills of several legislative riders that Democrats successfully turned back late last year as a part of the spending agreement. These changes are outside the legislative jurisdiction of the House Appropriations Committee, meaning the authorizing committees with jurisdiction will insist that the bills clear their committees, which will delay action. For their part, House Democrats will be unified in their opposition to these riders, and may attract sufficient Republican support to block the Freedom Caucus.
Thus, it seems likely that final resolution of the fiscal year 17 appropriations bills will occur during a lame duck session following the federal election in November. Congress will likely adopt a CR sometime in September to continue funding into the new fiscal year until lawmakers can move an omnibus spending bill to fully fund the federal government.
Despite the gloomy outlook for regular order this year, AFOP has written to appropriations leaders in both the House and Senate in support of workforce development, explaining the need for and success of the National Farmworkers Jobs Program.
In addition, AFOP, as a member of the Coalition to Invest in America’s Workforce (CIAW) – a coalition of diverse national organizations dedicated to helping people of all ages and conditions improve their skills, gain employment, and improve the competitiveness of U.S. businesses in today’s rapidly restructuring global economy – wrote last week to the Appropriations Committees urging them to provide the highest possible allocation for the fiscal year 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) appropriations bill.
In the letter, CIAW argues that, despite recent, modest funding increases, America’s education and workforce programs are still funded below their pre-recession levels. This has hurt our nation’s workers and businesses. Restoration of funding is necessary to sustain our economic competitiveness. Without meaningful investments in enhancing the skills of our workforce, skill gaps will stifle job growth and make a full economic recovery impossible.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee received an increase of 3.6 percent for fiscal year 2016 relative to its fiscal year 2015 funding level. Other subcommittees received an average increase of 6.9 percent. Accordingly, CIAW urged appropriators to ensure that the fiscal year 2017 allocation for Labor-HHS provides sufficient resources to achieve the following:
- Fund WIOA Title I employment and training programs at statutorily authorized levels so states, local areas and other partners in the public workforce system can fully realize the bipartisan vision outlined in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (Opportunity Act).
- Fund adult education and literacy programs under Title II of the Opportunity Act at least at authorized levels to ensure that the 36 million Americans with low basic skills are able to strengthen their educational levels to take advantage of emerging economic opportunities.
- Fund sufficiently Wagner/Peyser Employment Services (ES) activities under Title III of the Opportunity Act to give states the resources they need to provide intensive, in-person, reemployment services.
- Fully fund the Vocational Rehabilitation program and other employment services authorized under the Opportunity Act’s Title IV for adults and students with disabilities.
- Fund Opportunity Act youth programs to train the next generation of workers so they can become productive citizens, achieve their career goals, and contribute to their local communities.
- Fund job training and employment services for older workers and veterans authorized through the Older Americans Act and other laws at no less than level funding.
- Restore funding for the Perkins basic state grant program to pre-sequester levels to support our nation’s high schools, technical centers and community colleges in developing the highly skilled workforce demanded by employers.
You can be certain that AFOP is closely watching all appropriations developments in Washington, D.C. with the goal of seeing lawmakers approve robust funding for NFJP as well as make significant investments in America’s workers’ skills and education, so critical to businesses, workers, and the economy.
Seventeen-year-old Ana Flores has worked in the tobacco fields in North Carolina with her single mother for the past five years. Loopholes in US child labor laws and regulations have allowed Ana and other juvenile workers to endure brutal working hours and conditions cutting and spearing tobacco under the charge of unsympathetic farm labor contractors. Having long experienced symptoms consistent with heat exhaustion, pesticide poisoning, or “green tobacco sickness”, Ana has vowed that her younger brother and sister would never suffer such protracted feelings of hunger, exhaustion and illness as she has in those “suffocating” fields.
Last week, AFOP Executive Director Daniel Sheehan had the pleasure of meeting Ana at the Human Rights Watch and Child Labor Coalition’s special briefing “Too Young and Too Dangerous: The Hazards of Harvesting Tobacco and Other Crops for Farmworker Children” in honor of International Human Rights Day. When questioned how she would address opposition to reforms of US labor laws, Ana exclaimed: “It’s the 21st century! Come on!! Why are these tobacco companies being allowed to exploit us? Wasn’t child labor in factories banned in the 19th century?”
U.S. Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), author of the Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE Act of 2015), Virginia State Delegate Alfonso Lopez, and U.S. Representative David Cicilline (D-RI), lead sponsor of the Children Don’t Belong on Tobacco Farms Act (H.R. 1848), echoed these sentiments during the briefing as each narrated their struggles to pass legislation that would lead to stronger labor protections and ban child work on tobacco farms.
Fortunately, after more than a decade of advocacy, proponents of legislation reform won a major victory this September with the passing of the EPA’s Agricultural Worker Protection Standard, which bans children under the age of 18 from handling pesticides and limits individuals from re-entering fields where pesticides have been recently sprayed.
As AFOP commemorates this 67th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we also seize this moment to reiterate the urgency to eliminate all unjust labor standards in the United States and around the world that deprive children of their dignity, their childhood, their potential, and their physical and mental health. Again, we say “Come On!” Children are not small adults. They have a right to a childhood. These changes are long overdue.