House Cuts $70 Million in FY 2011 LSC Funding; President Seeks $30 Million Increase for FY 2012

On February 19, the House passed H.R. 1 which funds the government for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year (FY). The bill includes a cut of $70 million to the Legal Services Corporation basic field funding, bringing the LSC FY 2011 appropriation down to an overall $350 million. This cut is roughly 18 percent of the $324.4 million of basic field funding spread over the entire year. However, if the cuts are adopted on March 31, they will actually have to be absorbed over the last eight months of the grant year. The LSC Management and Grants Oversight, Technology Initiative Grants, Office of the Inspector General and Loan Repayment budgets remain at the same levels as last year.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) introduced an amendment on February 16 that sought to eliminate LSC's basic field funding. However, this amendment failed by a bipartisan roll call vote 259-171, with 68 Republicans voting against the amendment.

The bill now goes to the Senate where it is unlikely to be passed in its current form. The government is presently operating under a continuing resolution (CR) which expires on March 4. Congress must either pass another shorter CR or otherwise act before that time to fund the federal government to avoid a shutdown, similar to that which the country experienced in 1995.

While the House cut $70 million in LSC funding for FY 2011, President Obama released his FY 2012 Budget Request on February 14 which increased LSC funding to $450 million, a $30 million increase from FY 2011. Please click here to view the LSC page within the President's Budget Request. The President issued a veto threat on February 15 in response to the overall House FY 2011 package. It is unclear what role the White House intends to play once the House and Senate begin negotiating differences.

A wide range of advocacy groups are very focused on lobbying Congress around the LSC cuts. NLADA, the American Bar Association, the United Autoworkers/National Organization of Legal Services Workers, the Brennan Center for Justice, and the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights are conducting an aggressive campaign against the implementation of these draconian cuts. Julie Clark, NLADA vice president of Strategic Alliances and Government Relations, is coordinating NLADA's grassroots network in conjunction with the entire NLADA/CLASP Washington staff. The same can be said for ABA which recently adopted a Resolution at its mid-year meeting in Atlanta strongly opposing the House bill. State bars around the nation are waging specific, locally based lobbying campaigns in support of LSC. The entire community of IOLTA programs has mobilized as well.

LSC itself has been truly energetic in its efforts. LSC Board Chairman John Levi, and the entire LSC board has been extremely active on the Hill. New LSC president, Jim Sandman, has already proven to be an ardent and effective spokesperson for equal justice, ably supported by his professional government relations and communications staff.

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Posted: February 22, 2011