5 Things for LocalGov to Know About the Spending Bill (Aside from Opioid Funding)

While opioid funding took many of the 2018 Omnibus Spending Bill headlines, there were more wins for local government, and some notable absences.

After several stop gap measures that prevented government shutdown this last year, Congress passed a 2018 spending bill that was the result of many months of political negotiations in Washington, D.C.

The behemoth Omnibus Spending Bill of more than 2,000 pages was released, and two days later passed, then it was signed pretty quickly despite President Donald Trump's misgivings over its size -- $1.3 trillion. He then broadcast his position moments after signing it, reviewing points of military defense spending measures and expressing a need for both line item veto power and an end to the filibuster.

Forbes, which put the per page price tag at $582 million, published a good overview of what is and is not included. Military defense and pay raises, border protection, modernization for the Internal Revenue Service, maintenance at National Parks, science and art were funded.

One of the most notable wins for funding at the local level is $3.3 billion for addiction treatment and opioid response to address the nationwide crisis, as well as funding for opioid alternatives medical research and related programs. While this is welcome across the local government domain, what of other hot button issues affecting citizen life -- the vulnerabilities of voting systems, healthcare affordability, affordable housing opportunities, transportation priorities and immigrant populations?

We've rounded up some intel below on five other things local governments and their citizens are concerned about, which includes three funding wins and two notable absences.

#1 Affordable Healthcare Fizzles in Spending Bill

The Hill called Maine Senator Susan Collins a loser on the bill for her healthcare funding fight. As with most insurance topics -- it's complicated. Collins has been leading a bipartisan deal to stabilize the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace and would result in funding to lower healthcare insurance premiums. There was political argument over the Hyde Amendment, which limits federal funding that could be used for abortion, causing funding for healthcare to be left out of the spending bill, but Vox offered further insights on what they call a "bizarre twist:"

"The [Congressional Budget Office] actually projected that restoring [cost-sharing reduction (CSR)] payments would lead to a net loss in coverage. If insurers received the payments, they would presumably reduce rates on the plans used to calculate the size of the ACA’s subsidies, which would reduce the size of the subsidy. People who receive those subsidies would suddenly need to pay more to keep the same plan they bought in 2018."

The restoration of CSR payments without expanding eligibility to access government-subsidized plans would have elevated the cost of certain healthcare plans. But this complexity that vexed affordable healthcare in the spending bill does not mean the push for affordable healthcare is over.

#2 Billions for Addressing the Housing Crisis

The low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program will receive a 12.5 percent increase, totaling more than $3 billion over four years, according to Affordable Housing Finance.

While the tax reform bill preserved the credit, other measures in the bill predicted affordable housing marketplace instability and an estimated reduction in the affordable rental housing market by 235,000 homes over the next decade.

The spending bill:

  • Allows 60 percent of the area median income ceiling to apply to the average of all apartments in a development
  • Increases funds for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), including public housing
  • Includes $1.36 billion for the HOME program, $3.3 billion for the Community Development Block Grant program and $250 million for the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund

According to David M. Dworkin, president and CEO of the National Housing Conference, the fiscal 2018 funding bill "the most important housing legislation in many years."

Of note -- funding totaled more than $11 billion more than what Trump proposed. At that time, LIHTC investors got uncomfortable and reacted immediately. Affordable housing wins in the spending bill are being seen as a start to resolving the housing crisis:

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