by Bob Roehr
WASHINGTON, DC –
No increase in federal funding for AIDS programs is one of the many consequences of President Bush’s Nov. 13 veto of the Labor-HHS appropriations bill. The $606 billion measure was about $10 billion more than what Bush had requested.
“The [Democratic] majority was elected on a pledge of fiscal responsibility, but so far it’s acting like a teenager with a new credit card,” Bush said in a speech after vetoing the spending bill.
The House failed to override that veto by two votes, on Nov. 15. Congress subsequently passed a continuing resolution to fund those programs at the same levels as last year, through mid-December.
The $84 million increase in funding for Ryan White CARE Act programs would have been the most substantial increase in five years. The measure also would have added $6.2 million in HIV prevention funding at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and $1.1 billion to the overall budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The continuing resolution allows for prorated spending of the same amount of money as last year, however, AIDS money will have to be distributed under the new formula passed as part of the 2006 reauthorization of Ryan White.
The veto means that the “hold harmless” provision that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi fought for does not take effect. Eleven jurisdictions will see actual declines in federal dollars for HIV/AIDS programs. San Francisco will bear the brunt of that and could lose up to $8.5 million in the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1, unless subsequent legislation contains a similar provision.
Congress will begin tinkering with spending levels when it returns for business in early December. AIDS advocates face a difficult struggle in maintaining their hard won increases in funding.
“Our job now will be to urge the Congress not to cut the HIV/AIDS programs in half,” said Carl Schmid, a lobbyist with the AIDS Institute “We have already seem compromises down from the House increases fro Ryan White down from $102.8 million to the current proposal of $84.3 million. CDC HIV prevention went from an increase of $17.4 million to only $6.2 million. They should not compromise any more on these programs.”
The New York based advocacy group Housing Works had a suggestion of where to cut. Start with the $28 million for abstinence only education that liberal appropriations chairman David Obey (D-Wisc.) added in the false hope of building Republican support for a veto-proof majority in the House. Slashing the entire $176 million budget for abstinence only programs would leave ample room for the entire proposed increase in AIDS programs.