It’s one of those years in Washington, DC where your knowledge and policy wonkiness could matter – especially if you care about the funding provided by the Federal Government through formula(s), a specific program or pending competitive grants. Take this short quiz to see what you know:
- Which Fiscal Year (FY) is the Federal Government currently operating within?
- FY 2018
- FY 2019
- I don’t know
- How long does the budget deal last that supports the current Fiscal Year?
- One year
- Two years
- Three years
- For which Fiscal Year has the President provided a budget and Congress has begun to debate?
- For which Fiscal Year is every Federal agency currently developing a budget?
Answers: 1 (1), 2 (2), 3 (2), 4 (2).
Congratulations if you knew one or more of the answers. Here is where it gets tricky.
Congress: They have one job but a short timeframe in which to accomplish it. With just five months left in FY 2018 (which ends September 30), they must act quickly to finalize the FY 2019 budget and pass 12 appropriations bills. While their overall budget for FY 2018 and FY 2019 is agreed to, they have not negotiated details within the 12 appropriations bills yet and they have been put on notice by Director Mulvaney, head of the Office of Management and Budget, that the President will no longer sign omnibus appropriations bills. This means the bills must come one at a time, or in smaller bundles, affectionately called “minibuses” – not rolled into a massive package. This complicates negotiations between Republicans and Democrats. Any bipartisan action on bills such as the mammoth Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Services bill is tough. Omnibus bills are easier to tuck increases and cuts into – both are not quite as visible and can appease Members and makes garnering the 60 votes needed in the Senate easier to achieve.
Federal Agencies: While Congress has a politically complicated job solely focused on FY 2019 appropriations bills, the federal agencies have two pressure points and one blind spot. The pressure points are: 1) Agencies are tasked with pushing out (spending down) the FY 2018 funds granted in March (including increases in both defense and domestic spending) by September 30. 2) Agencies are also required to develop FY 2020 budget proposals by early fall. Finally, their blind spot is having no idea how closely Congress will adhere to the two-year budget deal and related funding levels agreed to in FY 2018. Planning for spending funds that could start as early as October 1 has to occur at some point, but until Congress finalizes the FY 2019 spending bills, they operate on assumptions.
Finally, what year is it, anyway? The Federal Government operates on a fiscal year that technically starts on October 1 and ends on September 30. So, for a few more months, we are in FY 2018, but on October 1 we will start FY 2019. If your head is spinning, don’t worry. We are here to keep things straight for you.