A sum of money or total of assets devoted to a special purpose
Appropriations are the fiscal year budgets decided on by Congress. The acting president will submit a proposed budget to Congress from October 1st to September 30th. Budget committees then split off to discuss the budget and report a budget resolution. These resolutions include a 302(a) allocation.
These allocations mark the maximum amount the Appropriations Committees can spend in a fiscal year.
The discretion of Congress decides upon areas covered in Appropriations. Yet mandatory spending, like Social Security, is exempt from appropriations. Areas covered can include:
- Commerce in State, Defense, and Justice
- District of Columbia
- Energy and Water
- Foreign Operations
- Labor Health and Human Services
- Legislative Branch
- Military Construction
- Treasury & Postal Service
- Veterans Affairs & Housing and Urban Development
There are three main types of appropriations enacted in a year. These include regular appropriations, supplemental appropriations, and continuing resolutions. Regular appropriations cover most fiscal year funding and are often packaged with other bills. Supplemental appropriations are additional bills created during the fiscal year. When an appropriation isn’t enacted by the start of the fiscal year, Congress continues funding through continuing resolutions. This proceeds until another bill begins.
Depending on the area, the amount decided upon in an appropriation can be a specific number or an indefinite amount.
Though Appropriations may seem complicated, they are simply yearly budgets. It specifies where, when, and how they use yearly taxpayer. Representatives will fight to increase the federal budget in certain areas, like education.
Appropriations are a vital piece of platforming for elections. What your candidate fights for reflects their part in appropriations discussions. They will represent how you want tax money spent at the beginning of a fiscal year. Yet, a single candidate’s platform may not be enough to change an appropriation.
These bills are difficult to pass and include many rewrites and revisions. The majority of a party and major current events can hasten and pause appropriations. Continuing resolutions are used to keep vital institutions functioning during a gridlock.
Appropriations are often packaged together in either a minibus or an omnibus. The omnibus incorporates many appropriations and bills in a single document. A single legislative vote can pass this packet. Though convenient, they come under scrutiny due to their use for covertly passing controversial bills into play. Notable omnibus budgets include 1993’s Reconciliation Act and the 2022 Consolidated Appropriations act.
A minibus is a significantly smaller group of appropriations compared to the omnibus. They are often leftover packages not covered in an omnibus. A minibus generally doesn’t contain budgets of controversial nature. Yet, its more minor nature can mean more discussion and overviews than an omnibus. Both have their pros and cons and need a keen eye to overview.
Many taxpayers feel appropriation bills need more transparency. Following budgeting procedures and specific areas of allocated funds are complex. Though the data is available to browse, complex jargon makes understanding it difficult.
To have your voice heard in the next fiscal year, learn about the platforms your state representatives stand for. Make your voice known by calling in or voting for a new candidate that supports budgeting on how you want your tax money spent.