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Senate Appropriations Committee Approves FY 2015 Rural Housing Funding Bill, Subcommittee Spending Allocations

Published on May 22, 2014 by NCSHA Staff
Senate Appropriations Committee Approves FY 2015 Rural Housing Funding Bill, Subcommittee Spending Allocations

Earlier today, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved by a vote of 30 to zero the FY 2015 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies (Agriculture-Rural Development) funding bill, which provides funding for the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) rural housing programs.  The Committee also adopted on a party-line vote of 16 to 14 the FY 2015 spending allocations, or 302(b) allocations, for its 12 subcommittees.

In her opening statement, Senate Appropriations Chairman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) stated, “I look forward to working with Committee Vice Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and all of my colleagues to produce bipartisan bills and complete our markups in early July.”  She added that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has committed to providing floor time in both June and July for the Senate to consider appropriations bills.

There were no rural housing-related amendments offered during the full Committee markup.  A managers’ amendment was adopted; details about the provisions in the amendment are not available.   The text of the Senate bill is also not yet available.

A summary of the Senate bill released after today’s markup states the bill meets its allocation of $20.575 billion.  It states the discretionary funding level is $90 million less than the FY 2014 enacted level and $228 million more than the President’s Budget request.  The House Agriculture-Rural Development Subcommittee’s FY 2015 allocation is $20.88 billion.

According to the summary, the bill would provide $1.094 billion for rental assistance, which is $16 million less than in FY 2014, and renew all expiring rental assistance agreements.  The summary also states the bill would make available almost $25 billion for single-family housing loans, which would provide homeownership opportunities to more than 170,000 rural households.  In a section describing reform provisions, the summary says the bill would prohibit rental assistance renewals for less than 12 months, which it says would save $15 million and “force project managers to better administer their resources.”

The Senate and House Agriculture-Rural Development Subcommittees reported their respective bills on May 20, as described in NCSHA’s blog post.  The House Appropriations Committee has not announced its markup date for the House Agriculture-Rural Development Subcommittee-reported bill, but a markup next week is likely.

The FY 2015 spending allocation adopted by the Committee for the Senate Transportation-HUD (T-HUD) Subcommittee is $54.439 billion, $2.41 billion more than the House T-HUD allocation and $3.58 billion more than the FY 2014 funding allocation.  The Senate T-HUD Subcommittee has not released its FY 2015 funding bill, but is expected to mark up the bill in early June.  The House Appropriations Committee reported the House T-HUD bill on May 21.

Before all Republican members of the Senate Appropriations Committee voted against adopting the FY 2015 spending allocations, Shelby explained they oppose the allocation levels because they believe the allocations for some Subcommittees circumvent the FY 2015 spending caps by relying too heavily on budgetary mechanisms that, in effect, would allow for spending above the caps.  Shelby said Republican members of the Committee offered alternatives for meeting the caps, including eliminating funding for proposed “new, untested” programs, rescinding unobligated balances, and equally distributing across non-defense accounts the funding shortfall caused by a decrease in receipts available from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to offset spending.

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) added to Shelby’s comments, saying the Republican members of the Committee recognize the difficulty created by the approximately $4.3 billion difference between the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) and the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) projections for FHA receipts and understand Mikulski’s challenge in developing the allocations.  He said, however, they specifically oppose a proposed approximately $2 billion expansion of mandatory spending and the reclassification of another $2.3 billion as defense-related spending that would not be subject to the caps.