President Issues FY2020 Budget with Drastic Cuts to Non-Defense Discretionary Spending

Legislative Update
March 11, 2019

On March 11, the White House released its Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 budget request for federal spending, releasing top-line numbers only. In the budget, the Administration is proposing a total of $34.4 billion in National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding for FY2020. This represents a cut of $4.7 billion, or 12.1 percent, from the FY2019 NIH level of $39.08 billion, and is slightly higher than the level at which NIH was funded in FY2017. Although the budget's supporting documentation includes a top-line discussion about NIH priorities in its section on the Department of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS), full details including Congressional Justifications are not expected until next week.

For the National Eye Institute (NEI), the President's budget proposes a funding level of $686 million, a cut of $111 million, or 13.9 percent, to a level approximately the same at which it was funded in FY2015.

As in the FY2019 proposed budget, the President:

  • Reduces the Extramural Salary Cap from Executive Level II ($189,600) to EL V ($154,300) and cap the percentage of an investigator's salary that can be paid with NIH grants at 90%.
  • Requests that Congress eliminate its prohibition of reducing grantee Facilities and Administrative (indirect) costs.
  • Moves the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) into the NIH, renaming it the National Institute for Research on Safety and Quality (NIRSQ). Unlike FY2019, the FY2020 budget does not propose transferring the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) nor the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDLR) into the NIH. In final FY2019 appropriations, Congress rejected these structural changes.

In response to the budget blueprint, NAEVR is supporting the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research's statement that the President's FY2020 budget proposal would decimate the nation's longstanding commitment to improving and saving lives through federal support for medical research. Recognizing the constraints that the discretionary budget caps in place from the Budget Control Act still impose on non-defense discretionary spending, the Ad Hoc Group's statement also urges Congress to enact a bipartisan budget agreement that raises the discretionary spending caps and enables a robust investment in NIH in FY2020”.

In a February 8 ARVO Advocacy Day hosted by NAEVR, the vision community requested for FY2020 a $2.5 billion increase in NIH funding over enacted FY2019 to at least $41.6 billion and a $53 million NEI funding increase to $850 million predicated on a bipartisan budget deal to raise the Budget Control Act caps for nondefense discretionary spending.

As is often stated, The President proposes, the Congress disposes, meaning that the Congress especially the Committees that deal with appropriating will have the final say on the FY2020 budget. And unlike the FY2019 appropriations process, the President will be negotiating federal spending with a chamber controlled by the Democratic party.