GM 15-086

Congress Considering FY 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Bill; IHS and BIA Contract Support Costs Funded on a Mandatory Basis

On December 16, 2015, congressional leaders reached a compromise agreement on a proposal that would fund all twelve federal agencies for the rest of the fiscal year (through September 30, 2016). Titled the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2016, the bill runs 2000 plus pages and it is to be linked with legislation that would extend many expiring tax provisions. The House of Representatives and the Senate are scheduled to vote on the bill December 18. There is some conservative Republican opposition to the bill and many Democrats are not at this point making commitments for or against it. The President, however, has indicated that he would sign it. Federal agencies are currently being funded under a third FY 2016 Continuing Resolution (CR), this one funding agencies at their FY 2015 levels through December 22, 2015. Despite differing views, the parties are generally united in not wanting another government shutdown nor a year-long CR.

The bill totals $1.15 trillion, with more than half of the funding for defense. Division G of the bill is the funding for the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, which includes the Indian Health Service (IHS) and Indian Affairs (Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education). Accompanying the bill is an Explanatory Statement for each Division. In addition to what is in the Explanatory Statement for Division G, the House and Senate appropriations report language ((H. Rept. 114-170) and (S. Rept. 114-70) from consideration of Interior appropriations bills earlier in the process) is to be complied with unless specifically contradicted by the bill language or the Explanatory Statement.

We will be writing detailed memoranda on the IHS and Indian Affairs budgets, but attach here the funding charts for those agencies. Most notable in the bill is the treatment of IHS and BIA Contract Support Costs (CSC), both of which would be funded under their own account. The attached budget chart specifies $277 million for BIA CSC and $717.9 million for IHS CSC, however, the bill language states that funding for CSC for both agencies would be at “such sums as may be necessary.” Should the need for CSC exceed the amount listed in the budget chart additional CSC funds will be made available and the agencies’ program funding will not be reduced.

In a related and long overdue development, the bill includes in the BIE budget $73.2 million to fully fund the estimated need for tribally operated schools’ Tribal Grant Support Costs – the schools’ equivalent of Contract Support Costs. Funding for Indian Affairs overall would see a 7.5 % or $194.6 million increase over FY 2015 enacted.

The IHS appropriation would be $4.8 billion, a 3.5% increase over FY 2015 enacted. The bill would provide $19 million for pay increases but does not appear to have funding for medical inflation, for which the President requested $71 million.

Please let us know if we may provide additional information regarding FY 2016 appropriations.