On May 23, the president released his full Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget proposal, outlining his administration's preferred funding levels for the coming federal fiscal year. (The FY runs from October 1, 2017, to September 30, 2018.) President Trump had released a shorter FY 2018 budget proposal in March and the plan announced on May 23 builds upon that initial blueprint.
While the proposal recommends concerning cuts to government programs and agencies of significance to the Parkinson's disease (PD) community, it's important to note that the president's budget does not automatically become law. It is a symbolic document meant to outline the administration's priorities. Many more steps must be taken before a final spending package for FY 2018 is reached.
The president's plan proposes significant spending decreases for the National Institutes of Health, the largest public funder of PD research, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which will house the National Neurological Conditions Surveillance System. It also would reduce Medicaid spending, making it harder for beneficiaries to access the program's services. As a substantial number of people with PD are eligible for this program, our population could be impacted by these cuts.
The proposal does include a funding increase for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but this will mostly come from raising user fees, which industry groups pay to take advantage of the FDA's services. This would strengthen industry influence over FDA funding and some say this could therefore call into question the agency's ability to act independently.
Although the president releases a budget proposal each year, Congress is ultimately responsible for setting federal funding levels. The House and Senate can keep the president's priorities in mind as they craft a spending bill, but often they'll create a budget that adheres to their own preferences. For example, members of both chambers have indicated a strong desire to invest in science. In the recently passed FY 2017 spending bill, lawmakers allocated an additional $2 billion to the National Institutes of Health. This is certainly a trend we hope will continue in the coming year. (Thank your elected officials for voting to increase research funding in FY 2017.)
Congress will now begin the process of drafting the FY 2018 budget. Over the coming months, the Foundation will advocate on Capitol Hill for a spending package that includes robust funding for medical research, provides assistance to those with a chronic illness or a disability, and safeguards programs important to the PD community, including Social Security and Medicare.