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What the President’s Budget Means for Kids

Federal Budget

This Monday, President Obama presented his $3.7 trillion budget request for fiscal year 2012 to Congress, outlining his spending priorities for the coming year. As expected, the President’s budget reflects the serious economic challenges posed by the federal budget deficit, and proposes to trim or terminate more than 200 federal programs. Consistent with this theme, the President’s budget includes a number of freezes and cuts across all non-security, discretionary (funds that are determined by Congress annually) federal programs.

It is important to note that the President’s budget only acts as the Administration’s wish list of priorities, providing a blueprint for Congress. We expect Congress’s spending priorities to look quite different from the President’s. (This assumption has played out over the last several weeks as the House of Representatives has been outlining their continuing resolution for the remainder of federal spending in 2011).

Another factor that should be considered when analyzing or reading about the President’s fiscal year 2012 budget is that because funding for fiscal year 2011 has not yet been agreed to, the federal government is currently operating under a continuing resolution that is set to expire on March 4, 2011. Because of this, it is difficult to compare the President’s budget proposal for next year to this year’s current spending levels. For the most part, the President’s budget compares its 2012 funding request to 2010 spending – however, it also compares some of its 2012 budget requests to current year funding with an assumption that the continuing resolution will be extended for the entire 2011 fiscal year. However, at this time, Members of Congress are proposing additional significant cuts to fiscal year 2011 spending, and as a result, comparisons in the President’s budget to fiscal year 2011 spending may be inaccurate.

A few facts that our recent analysis of the President’s budget provided when it comes to federal spending on children’s programs:

  • Children receive a raw increase of $16.8 billion over 2010 levels
  • Total spending on children is up 6% (3% in inflation-adjusted terms) over 2010 levels
  • Children’s discretionary spending is up by $3.11 billion, a 3.6% increase (0.49% in inflation adjusted terms)
  • Despite a 5 year non-security discretionary spending freeze, the percentage of discretionary money spent of children’s program would increase under this year’s budget, rising from 19.1% in 2010 to 19.6% in 2012
  • Total spending on children would amount to 1.9% of GDP, higher than at any point in the last five years

As the budget season commences, First Focus urges Congress to act swiftly to maintain programs that serve as lifelines to our nation’s children, ensuring that their basic needs can be met. Deficit-reduction cannot and should not be undertaken at the expense of our children’s well-being.

For more information on the President’s budget check out our comprehensive fact sheets (with more to come next week!):