This paper provides an analysis of the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget request, highlighting impacts on funding for Indian programs. In the coming weeks, the President’s budget will be reviewed by Congress, and appropriations committees will begin holding hearings on the proposals. Overall, tribes have a significant opportunity to increase appropriations for Indian programs this year, and we urge tribal leaders to support tribal budget requests with direct communication to the Appropriations Committee and Subcommittee leadership and members in both the House and Senate. While the Interior Appropriations Subcommittees remain important, we encourage tribes to send testimony on the Department of Justice budget, which is handled by the Commerce-Justice-Science and Related Agencies subcommittees in both chambers, the Health and Human Services (HHS) budget handled by the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations subcommittee, Housing and Urban Development budget in the Transportation-Housing subcommittees, and energy programs in the Energy-Water subcommittees, for instance. The Native American Programs hearing deadline to request to testify before the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee is February 13, 2015. Look up deadlines to submit testimony on the House side at http://appropriations.house.gov/.
The Senate will announce deadlines soon as well at http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/. Contact Amber Ebarb (firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-466-7767) at NCAI if you have questions about this analysis.
Highlights of Proposed Funding for Tribal Programs: In preparation for the President’s budget, some agencies consulted with tribes about programs in the budget, and many recommendations from Indian Country are included in the FY 2016 proposal. Below are a few highlights from NCAI’s initial analysis of the President’s budget. Additional department summaries are addressed below, as well as links to many of the agency budget documents for even more in-depth analysis. In January of this year, NCAI released its FY 2016 tribal budget recommendations, which can be compared to the Administration’s budget proposals.
Significant proposals in the President’s FY 2016 Budget include:
- Mandatory Contract Support Costs: The FY2016 budget includes a legislative proposal to reclassify contract support costs as permanent funding beginning in FY 2017. NCAI and tribes have called for this in resolutions across Indian Country and in NCAI’s tribal budget requests. The FY 2016 request also will fully fund contract support costs, based on the most recent BIA and IHS analysis.
- Generation Indigenous is an initiative in the budget to address Native youth Issues. The Generation Indigenous, or "Gen-I", initiative takes a comprehensive approach to help improve the lives of and opportunities for Native youth. The initiative crosses multiple agencies, including the Departments of the Interior, Education (ED), Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Health and Human Services (HHS), Agriculture (USDA), Labor (DOL) and Justice (DOJ). Increases include: (1) $34.2 million at DOI to extend broadband internet and computer access to all BIE-funded schools and dormitories; (2) $10 million at HUD and $8 million at DOI to address teacher housing needs; (3) $50 million at HHS to provide youth-focused behavioral, mental health, and substance abuse services; and (4) $53 million for Native Youth Community Projects at ED to support comprehensive strategies to improve college and career-readiness of Native youth.
- Significant Increases: the budget proposes an overall increase of 12 percent for BIA over the FY 2015 enacted level, the largest increase in more than a decade (excluding Recovery Act funding). The Indian Health Service would receive a nine percent increase.
- Acknowledging the important role BIA plays as a broad provider of Federal services, the President’s budget proposes $4.0 million to establish the One-Stop Tribal Support Center to support Tribes in accessing hundreds of services across the Federal government.
- The FY 2016 budget includes $4.5 million to establish an Indian Energy Service Center to facilitate vital energy development in Indian Country.
- In the BIA, a data initiative of $12.0 million is proposed to establish an Office of Indian Affairs Policy, Program Evaluation, and Data which will help the Interior Department collect, analyze, and use evidence to support effective policy making and program implementation. The funds also will assist the Department in working with Tribes to improve Interior and BIA data quality and availability and will support efforts with the Census Bureau to identify and address data gaps in Indian Country.
- The BIA budget builds on the Tiwahe (Family) Initiative: a comprehensive and integrated approach to address the inter-related problems of poverty, violence, and substance abuse faced by Indian communities. The FY16 budget would provide $15 million to expand the Tiwahe Initiative, $6 million more for Social Services, $4 million more for law enforcement for alternatives to incarceration, and $5 million more for aid to tribal family courts.
- The HHS Tribal Behavioral Health Grant (TBHG) program would receive $30 million, including $15 million in the Mental Health appropriation and $15 million in the Substance Abuse Prevention appropriation as part of Generation Indigenous. With the expansion of the TBHG program, SAMHSA aims to reduce substance use and the suicide among Native youth and address conditions which impact learning in BIE schools. The TBHG program will support mental health promotion and substance use prevention for high-risk Native youth and their families, enhance early detection of mental and substance use disorders among Native youth, and increase referral to treatment.
- Public Safety: The budget includes $417.4 million for the Department of Justice (DOJ) public safety initiatives in Indian Country, which is a $102 million increase compared to the FY 2015 DOJ enacted total for Indian Country.
- Tax provisions: Treasury includes a proposal to exclude from income student loan forgiveness and certain scholarship amounts for participation in the IHS health professions program; a modification of the adoption tax credit to allow Indian Tribal Governments to make a status determination of a “child with special needs”; modifications of Tax Exempt Bonds for Indian Tribal Governments that include the repeal of the “essential government function” for tax exempt bond financing, and new flexibility for Tribal Economic Development Bonds.
- Carcieri: Language to address the Carcieri Supreme Court decision is again included in the Department of Interior general provisions of the President’s budget. (Interior Appendix, Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2016, p. 716)
The White House has also released a fact sheet on tribal programs in the FY 2016 budget, “Standing With Indian Country.” NCAI will work to ensure that the federal programs that fulfill the trust responsibility to tribes receive bipartisan support in the appropriations process.