House passes robust budgets for science, entrepreneurship

June 27, 2019
By: Jason Rittenberg

The U.S. House has now passed 10 of the 12 annual appropriations bills that fund federal agencies. Agencies with House-approved budgets include the Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and Small Business Administration. Federal R&D and Commerce’s Regional Innovation Strategies would see substantial increases, and — due to amendments made on the House floor — SBA’s accelerators and clusters programs would retain their funding. Unfortunately, of the four budget questions SSTI identified at the start of the year, most remain insufficiently answered to provide confidence for how the final FY 2020 budget will ultimately resolve.

House appropriations highlights

From the 10 bills that have been passed by the House so far, several line items are significant for regional innovation economies.

  • Economic Development Administration. Regional Innovation Strategies program would receive $30 million (from $23.5 million), and a new STEM apprenticeship program would receive $5 million.
  • SBA. Regional Innovation Clusters would receive $5 million (level funding), and the Growth Accelerator Fund Competition would receive $1 million (from $2 million).
  • NIST. Manufacturing Extension Partnership would receive $154 million (from $140 million), and the Manufacturing USA network would receive $15.2 million (from $15 million).
  • Labor. Funding for registered apprenticeships would be $250 million (from $160 million).
  • NSF. Overall funding for the agency would be $8.6 billion (from $8.1 billion) and recommends NSF spend at least an additional $5 million for I-Corps (the last specific funding directive from the House was for $30 million in FY 2017).
  • NIH. Funding across the Institutes would be $41.1 billion (from $39.1 billion).
  • Defense. Across the department, R&D would be funded at $100.5 billion (from $94.9 billion).

SSTI will provide a detailed analysis of the FY 2020 budget as final bills are approved.

Next Steps

The Senate will need to hold its appropriations subcommittee and full committee markup hearings, as well as pass its bills on the floor. The chamber has been waiting for a budget deal to determine what the overall federal budget will be in FY 2020. No deal has yet been reached, although Sen. Richard Shelby, the appropriations chair, has said that the Senate will begin its process on July 1, with or without the topline numbers.

In order to achieve final agreement with the House, most of the issues SSTI identified in March remain. Beyond the Senate needing to decide on the budget levels it will use to determine funding, Congress must agree to do one of the following: increase the budgetary caps on discretionary spending, cut billions of dollars from the budget, or allow the administration to use sequestration to cut funding from Congress’s budget. Additionally, the future of border and Census funding are not yet clear, as the House has not yet passed its Homeland Security bill and elected to provide for the Census through mandatory spending instead of using offsets from traditional Department of Commerce funding.

federal budget, fy20budget