S 1650 -- 09/29/99
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September 29, 1999


(Sponsors: Stevens (R), Alaska; Specter (R), Pennsylvania)

This Statement of Administration Policy provides the Administration's views on S. 1650, the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, FY 2000, as reported by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Your consideration of the Administration's views would be appreciated.

As the President indicated in his statement yesterday, while the funding levels in the Senate Committee bill are better than those in the House bill, he would veto the bill in its current form for the reasons discussed below.

The President's FY 2000 Budget provides levels of discretionary spending for FY 2000 that conform to the Bipartisan Budget Agreement by making savings through user fees and certain mandatory programs to help finance this spending. The Administration wants to work with the Congress on mutually-agreeable mandatory and other offsets that could be used to increase funding for high-priority discretionary programs, including those funded by this bill.

Department of Education

The Administration strongly opposes the Senate Committee bill's undermining of our national commitment to improve our schools by not guaranteeing funds specifically for Class Size Reduction. The President's Budget includes the second installment of his goal to hire 100,000 new teachers in order to reduce class size in the early years. Unfortunately, the Senate bill reneges on the bipartisan commitment last year to reduce class sizes to an average of 18 in the primary grades by providing no funds specifically for Class Size Reduction. As a result, it does not guarantee funding for the 29,000 teachers hired last year or the additional 8,000 teachers that would be hired under the President's proposal. This program has been extremely popular -- every State applied for and received funding in FY 1999, and preliminary State reports show that 1.7 million children will benefit from last year's funds alone. We would support efforts to restore funding to this critical initiative as the bill moves through the legislative process.

The Senate Committee-reported bill also provides unacceptably low funding for the following education priorities:

  • GEAR UP. The President's budget requests $240 million for GEAR UP, which helps students in high poverty areas stay in school, succeed in their classes, and prepare for college. The Committee bill provides $180 million, denying college preparation services to more than 130,000 fewer low-income middle school students.

  • After School. The President's budget request focuses on raising student achievement and improving accountability in our Nation's schools. A cornerstone of this effort is the President's $600 million request for After School programs, which would support State efforts to end social promotion by providing extra learning time for 1.8 million students to help them master academic material. The Senate bill provides only $400 million for After School, denying services to nearly 600,000 students. The Administration strongly opposes the reduction in a top Presidential priority.

  • Hispanic Education Agenda. The President's budget requested over a $400 million increase to support programs targeted to improve the educational outcomes of Hispanic Americans. Unfortunately, the Senate bill cuts $236 million from the request which will deny many of these indispensable services to this underserved population, seriously hampering the progress of Hispanic Americans in reaching the high academic standards expected of all students.

  • Adult Education ESL/Civics Initiative. The Senate bill provides no funding for the President's Adult Education ESL/Civics Initiative (part of the Hispanic Education Agenda), which would provide $70 million to help adult English language learners acquire the skills necessary to become successful participants in American society.

  • Reading Excellence. The Committee bill reduces the President's $286 million request for Reading Excellence to help over one million children learn to read by the end of the third grade. The bill provides $260 million for this program, denying 100,000 students the help they need to read independently, the cornerstone for all learning.

  • Education Technology. The Committee's $94 million reduction from the request would make it increasingly difficult for States to meet school children's education technology needs, especially in training teachers to integrate educational technology into their curriculum effectively. These technological investments are critical in order to prepare the next generation for the 21st Century.

  • Community Based Technology Centers. The Committee's $55 million reduction from the Budget would prevent low-income communities from gaining access to the technology that they need to prepare for the 21st Century. Recent studies have shown that not only do children and adults in low-income communities have much less access to computers than in high-income communities, this "digital divide" is also growing. The President's request would have helped to shrink this gap by funding nearly 300 additional community-based technology centers.

  • Charter Schools. The Committee bill cuts $30 million from the request, which would leave over 500 charter schools without funds to assist in the planning and development of innovative programs that enhance public school choice.

  • Research. The Committee has cut by over $50 million the President's request for research and dissemination, eliminating funding for large-scale, joint research with the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health on early learning in reading and mathematics, teacher preparation, and technology applications. These cuts would occur at a time when teachers and policy-makers are demanding reforms proven by sound research.

In addition to the funding issues identified above, the Administration strongly urges the Senate to include a key language provision that would support stronger accountability under the Title I program by requiring States to reserve 2.5 percent of their LEA Grant allocations to help turn around the lowest-performing schools.

Furthermore, the Administration objects to the language limitation that would bring a halt to the President's efforts to help States and parents raise academic standards through a voluntary national test. The Committee bill's language would prohibit the pilot testing, field testing, implementation, administration, and distribution of the tests unless explicitly authorized. The language prohibition should be deleted. Congress should be promoting high standards for all students, not undermining them.

Department of Health and Human Services

The Senate Committee bill underfunds public health priorities, including preventive health, mental health services, and health care access for the poor. The Administration is very concerned about the following cuts to key health and social service programs:

  • Social Services Block Grant (SSBG). The Administration is strongly opposed to the $1.3 billion reduction in the Social Services Block Grant. The Committee funding level is less than half the level requested and 45 percent below the FY1999 level. This cut would have a direct and severe impact on States, local governments and nonprofits that provide such critical programs as child care, child welfare, and services for individuals with disabilities.

  • National Family Caregiver Support Program. The Administration urges the Senate to provide the $125 million requested to establish a new program to assist approximately 250,000 families caring for an older relative. The need for this program is indicated by the fact that there are seven million informal caregivers providing primary assistance to the 95 percent of older persons who need help with their daily activities.

  • Head Start. The Administration commends the Committee for fully funding the President's request for Head Start. The $507 million increase above the House mark will enable this important program to deliver comprehensive education and developmental services to 44,000 additional low-income children. This increase also supports critical investments in quality improvement activities included in the President's budget and agreed upon in the bipartisan reauthorization of the Head Start Act last year. The Administration raises concern, however, over the possible impact of an advance appropriation at the level included in the Committee's mark.

  • Mental Health Block Grant. The Administration objects to the $49 million reduction to the request for the Mental Health Block Grant. This funding is important for assisting States in supporting comprehensive community systems of care for adults with a serious mental illness and children with severe emotional disturbances, given that approximately 10.2 million people, or over five percent of the population, suffer from a serious mental illness over the course of any given year.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Administration is concerned that the Senate bill would reduce requested funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by $53 million, impairing CDC's ability to carry out key public health activities such as childhood immunizations, chronic and environmental disease prevention, domestic HIV/AIDS prevention, and surveillance and investigations of outbreaks. Research done in CDC laboratories is used by community disease prevention programs around the country to address illnesses such as AIDS, cancer, diabetes, and influenza. The Administration urges the Senate to fund the requested increases for CDC, including funding for research, laboratory work, and technical assistance.

  • Health Care Access. The Administration strongly opposes the Senate bill's failure to fund adequately programs that will improve health care access for many Americans, including a portion of the 43 million uninsured. No funding is provided for the Health Care Access for the Uninsured initiative, which would provide funds to enable the development of integrated systems of care and to address service gaps within these systems. In addition, the bill does not include the full $25 million increase requested for Family Planning services. The President's full request would provide family planning services to an additional 500,000 clients who are neither Medicaid eligible nor have insurance.

  • Children's Hospitals Graduate Medical Education. The Administration is concerned about the Senate bill's lack of funding for Children's Hospitals Graduate Medical Education (GME). Teaching hospitals that do not treat many Medicare patients, such as the Nation's free-standing children's hospitals, receive a very small share of Medicare GME dollars. The Administration urges the Senate to fully fund this request.

  • Bioterrorism. The Senate bill does not include in the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund the requested $13 million for critical FDA expedited regulatory review and approval of new vaccines and drugs to combat biological and chemical agents used for terrorist purposes.

  • Minority AIDS Initiative. The Senate Committee reduces funding by $15 million (-30 percent) for minority AIDS prevention and treatment from the FY 1999 enacted and FY 2000 requested level. These important resources allow HHS to direct the necessary funds to the most critical areas of need to address this epidemic in minority communities and should be restored.

  • HCFA Program Management. The Administration appreciates the Senate Committee's action to fund the request for HCFA Program Management. However, we encourage the Senate to enact the full amount of already-authorized Medicare+Choice user fees, as well as the President's requested increase in Medicare+Choice user fees. We also encourage the Senate to enact the President's proposed program management user fees totaling $194.5 million, which could free up resources under the discretionary caps for education and other priorities.

  • Medicare+Choice Competitive Pricing Demonstrations. The Senate bill includes language that would prevent funds from being used to administer the Medicare+Choice Competitive Pricing Demonstration Project. These demonstrations were passed by the Congress as part of the Balanced Budget Act in order to provide valuable information regarding the use of competitive pricing methodologies in Medicare. The information that we could learn from these demonstrations is particularly relevant as we consider the important task of reforming Medicare. The Administration urges the Senate to remove this provision and to allow HCFA to implement the demonstrations.

  • Abortion. The Administration urges the Senate to strike sections 508 and 509 of the Committee bill, which would prohibit the use of funds for abortion. The President believes that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. These provisions would continue to limit the range of conditions under which a woman's health would permit access to abortion services. Furthermore, section 509 requires a physician to make a legal determination that these conditions have been met. The Administration proposes to work with the Congress to address the issue of abortion funding.

  • Delayed Obligations for NIH. In providing the National Institutes of Health an increase of $2 billion, the Senate bill would delay the obligation of $3 billion to the end of the fiscal year. The Administration is concerned that the size of this restriction could hamper the efficient management of NIH's grant portfolio and potentially delay the funding of high-quality research on cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's, and other diseases.

Department of Labor

The Administration appreciates the Senate Committee's mark for the Department of Labor's employment and training programs and programs protecting working Americans at their jobs. This supports our initiatives to help dislocated workers, youth, and others in need of skills or skill upgrading to prepare for, find, and retain jobs in today's workplace. In addition, the Committee's mark will help ensure that worker safety and health and other rights are protected on the job at home as well as help developing economies establish core labor standards. However, the Administration urges the Senate to provide the full request for the Department to work with other agencies to address youth violence among out-of-school youth and the request for the Bureau of Labor Statistics to ensure that our statistical programs are maintained and improved.

National Labor Relations Board

The Administration appreciates the Senate Committee's full funding of the request for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Among other things, this will enable the NLRB to work down its case backlog and improve its information technology so it can better serve labor and employers in resolving the charges brought before it for resolution.

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