February 20, 2008
PRESIDENT'S BUDGET WOULD CUT DEEPLY INTO IMPORTANT PUBLIC SERVICES AND ADVERSELY AFFECT STATES
Many Cuts Come on Top of Sizable Reductions in Recent Years
by Sharon Parrott, Kris Cox, Danilo Trisi, and Douglas Rice
President’s 2009 budget would provide some $20.5 billion
less for domestic discretionary programs outside of homeland security — a
broad category of programs that includes everything from child care to
environmental protection to medical research — than the 2008 level, adjusted for
The budget calls for reductions in a broad range
of services, including some areas that have seen sizable cuts in recent years.
For example, the budget would cut child care, environmental protection, and job
training — all areas for which funding in 2008 is well below funding earlier in
the decade, after adjusting for inflation.
In other areas, the budget does not call for
large new cuts, but nor does it reverse sizable cuts that have been made
in recent years. K-12 education is such an area. After the No Child Left
Behind initiative was enacted, funding for K-12 education increased for several
years. Since 2004, however, funding has failed to keep pace with inflation. In
2008, funding for K-12 education is 8.9 percent below the 2004 level, in
inflation-adjusted dollars. The President’s proposed funding level falls just
short of what would be needed to keep pace with inflation. As a result, under
the President's budget, K- 12 funding in 2009 would fall 9.1 percent below the
2004 funding level, adjusted for inflation.
Head Start is another example. Head Start
funding has essentially been frozen since 2002, without adjustment for
inflation. As a result, when inflation is taken into account, funding in 2008
is 11 percent below the 2002 level. The President’s proposed 2009 funding level
falls 12 percent below the 2002 inflation-adjusted level.
As a result, significant additional funding would
be needed to restore many programs to the levels in place earlier this decade.
For example, in K-12 education alone, an additional $3.7 billion above the
President’s 2009 budget request would be needed to restore funding to 2004
levels (after adjustment for inflation). To restore child care and Head
Start funding to 2002 inflation-adjusted levels would require an additional $1.4
billion above the President’s budget request.
Many of the proposed cuts in domestic
discretionary programs would adversely affect state budgets. A large
number of domestic discretionary programs provide funding to states for various
types of services such as education, low-income energy assistance, environmental
protection, and mass transit. The President’s budget would cut overall funding
for domestic discretionary grants to state and local governments by $19.1
billion, as compared to 2008 funding levels adjusted for inflation. (Funding
would be $15.1 billion below 2008 funding levels even without adjusting for
It is important to note that despite some
rhetoric to the contrary, these programs have not grown rapidly in recent
years. In 2008, funding for domestic discretionary programs outside homeland
security is lower as a share of the economy than it was in 2001. And, between
2002 and 2008, the overall funding level for domestic discretionary programs
outside homeland security declined 2.6 percent in real per capita terms.
(See box on page 2 of the
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Before adjustment for inflation, the drop is $10.6 billion, or 2.3 percent. It
should be noted that the President’s budget also proposes that the fiscal year
2009 appropriations bills include $6.4 billion in non-controversial mandatory
savings. If those savings are accepted, then domestic discretionary programs
outside homeland security would have to be cut $14.1 billion in 2009, after
adjusting for inflation, rather than $20.5 billion.
Throughout this paper, unless otherwise noted, comparisons to prior years adjust
prior funding levels for inflation.
Adjusting only for inflation, there has been an increase of 3 percent over the