Congress reaches a two-year budget agreement. What’s next?

On Tuesday the Congressional budget conference committee, chaired by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), reached a tentative agreement on the next two years’ federal operating budget. What does this mean for federal smart growth programs?

First, the big picture. The new deal sets top-line discretionary federal spending at $1.012 trillion for fiscal year (FY) 2014, $1.014 trillion for FY 2015 and provides $63 billion of sequester relief. Both the House and Senate still need to approve the budget before it becomes official: The House will vote on the budget agreement today and the Senate will likely take up a vote sometime next week. The measure is expected to pass both chambers.

The proposed agreement comes after Congress failed to reach a budget agreement in October, causing most of the federal government to shut down. The House and Senate eventually agreed on a short-term continuing resolution for the current fiscal year which is set to expire on January 15, 2014. If the proposed budget passes both chambers, Congress will have until January 15 to set funding levels for all federal programs.

That will mean the budget for programs that impact community development and smart growth—including DOT’s TIGER grant program, EPA’s Smart Growth Program and HUD’s Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities—will be back up for debate.

The most recent funding discussions were less than productive. This summer, the Senate began considering a budget for HUD and DOT as part of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies appropriations bill. Had it passed, that bill would have allocated $50 million for Partnership for Sustainable Communities programs at HUD and DOT. The House version of bill excluded any funding for those programs. Both bills eventually failed.

The coming appropriations process will be a new opportunity to rally support behind these important programs. Want to be one of the first to weigh in on the FY 2014 appropriations process? Tell your members of Congress that you support federal smart growth programs.