The annual funding cycle begins early in the calendar year with the release of the President’s budget request to Congress in late January or early February. Congress responds with its broad blueprint for spending outlined in the annual budget resolution advanced by the House and Senate Budget Committees. The budget resolution sets the overall framework by which the House and Senate Appropriations Committees do their work. The budget resolution sets a cap on overall discretionary spending for the coming fiscal year. Although the resolution does not have the force of law, it must pass before the appropriators can advance their bills.
Once the budget resolution is passed (or, in recent years, the House and Senate separately “deem” a level of spending if a resolution cannot be agreed upon), the chairs of the 12 appropriations subcommittees, known as the “cardinals,” meet to divide the total discretionary funding available among the 12 separate subcommittees (each subcommittee handling different functions of government such as: agriculture; defense; energy and water development; financial services and general government; homeland security; interior and environment; labor, health and education; legislative branch; military construction and veterans affairs; state department and foreign aid; transportation and housing, and commerce, justice and science.) Through the late winter and spring, the individual subcommittees will hold hearings to help inform their funding decisions.
Once the allocations are set (which may differ between House and Senate), the 12 subcommittees will draft and mark-up their bills, first in subcommittee and then in full committee, before taking them to the floor for debate by the full chamber. Like all bills, appropriations bills must then be reconciled in conference committee before returning to both chambers for final passage before going to the President for signature.
This process is supposed to be completed by September 30, before the start of a new fiscal year on October 1. However, this deadline has not been met in a decade. If Congress fails to enact one or more of the 12 appropriations bills before October 1, members must pass one or more short-term continuing resolutions to extend funding for government programs until the final appropriations bills are signed into law.
Funding for the justice assistance grant programs has been on the decline since the peak in FY02, with a more precipitous drop the past two years as Congress has sought to reduce the federal deficit by reducing discretionary spending. In FY10, state and local justice assistance programs totaled about $3.4 billion. In FY12, total spending had dropped to about $2.2 billion, a cut of almost 40 percent.
The Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) program has been cut by 34 percent since FY10 and 61 percent since FY02. The COPS Hiring program has been cut by 44 percent since FY10; juvenile justice programs by 38 percent, and the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) which reimburses state prisons and local jails for the cost of incarcerating illegal immigrants has been cut by 27 percent since FY10.