CEO’s Corner: February/March 2017

220px-Thomas_P_O'Neill_IIICampaigning is different than governing. President Trump recently unveiled his budget blueprint and in doing so formally, he made clear his policy plans for our country. At the state and municipal level, the proposed budget doesn’t bring good news. If adopted, the budget would dramatically impact the ability of America’s urban mayors to continue to operate healthy, thriving communities. This was the message I delivered in an op-ed that ran in CommonWealth Magazine last week.

At the intersection of policy and budget are real people – yet his proposal fails to make that connection. This long tally of crucial cuts will affect cities from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. The reductions don’t just weaken or eliminate essential federal programs intended to help disadvantaged families, but they strike at the very core of America’s cities – the places that drive so much of our current innovation and economic development – and their ability to function and thrive. After all, the private sector cannot prosper when basic public services such as transportation become severely hobbled.

From a $6 billion cut to Housing and Urban Development that will devastate affordable housing, development and public parks, to the elimination of Amtrak subsidies, to a massive $16.2 billion cut to public transportation – taken together it is a recipe for stopping cities in their tracks, stymying growth and development and throwing a wrench into the engine that makes our country run – our great urban centers. Take one example: a $2.3 billion cut to matching federal funds for new or expanded public transportation projects that are co-funded by cities. More than 40 cites, from Albany to Tempe, will lose new subway systems, tramways, light rail and assorted other carbon-cutting, people-moving job creators.

Some of the cuts directly impact households. A cutback of more than $4 billion will decimate Health and Human Services programs, including Home Energy Assistance. So, what is the plan when the elderly and poor in Chicago and Boston and Seattle cannot afford to heat their homes next winter? Section 8 landlords will lose tenants, urban hospitals will lose grant dollars, urban colleges will see huge cuts, and public housing will suffer catastrophic drops in funds for everything from vouchers to maintenance and construction money. The list goes on.

Federal budget impacts will be locally significant and very real. However, submitting a budget is much easier than persuading Congress to pass it. States, municipalities and individuals must carefully scrutinize the president’s proposal and make their voices heard in Congress – just as they did in the failed attempt to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act. The time to engage Congress is now.


Washington Post’s Marty Baron Speaks at Tufts Medical Center Working Wonders Gala


By Vice Chairman Cosmo Macero Jr. 

With a Trump Administration that creates its own reality, and a White House communications strategy of undermining public confidence in the Fourth Estate, it’s a sad state of affairs that Americans, perhaps more than ever, need powerful reminders of the importance of a free press.

And so Washington Post editor Marty Baron delivered just that on Tuesday night at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. The former Boston Globe editor – flanked by many of his former colleagues from the Pulitzer prize-winning Globe Spotlight Team – was in town to receive the Ellen Zane Award for Visionary Leadership at the Tufts Medical Center Working Wonders Gala.

“The President has said (the White House) is at war with the press. Well I’m here to tell you we are not at war,” Baron told close to 900 attendees at the annual event, which this year highlighted the groundbreaking work of Tufts MC’s CardioVascular Center. “We are at work.”

The fundamental mission of the press remains unchanged, Baron said, even as technology and digital media platforms have had a dramatic and challenging impact on the news business. The job of the Post and other media holding the Trump White House accountable is straightforward: “Find truth. Verify. And publish,” Baron said.

Baron, who in addition to steering the Post newsroom through an unprecedented period in presidential and political history, is also charged with maintaining high quality journalism while the business evolves rapidly and sometimes unpredictably in a digital media age. He credited Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, with respecting the generations-old culture of the news organization while still encouraging innovation. He said the Post has a “commitment to experimentation” and noted that its digital presence is now rivaling that of the New York Times.

“The internet is a fundamentally different medium. News organizations that want to succeed must tell stories in new ways,” Baron said. “We are becoming technology organizations. But “no matter how our business changes, our values stay the same.”

March Madness: American Health Care Act

“I’m just a bill, sitting here on Capitol Hill..” 

Schoolhouse rock Bill

The American Health Care Act of 2017 was pulled before a probable defeat on the floor of the House of Representatives today. Here’s a recap of its journey.

After months of anticipation and secrecy, the American Health Care Act of 2017 plan was released by House Republicans on March 6th consisting of two bills. One bill was introduced into the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the other to the House Ways and Means Committee.  The bills passed both committees the next day on a party-line vote and without a Congressional Budget Report (CBO) cost analysis.  It wasn’t until March 13th that the CBO released its budget estimates. The CBO report is often used as a tool for debate prior to any votes. On March 16th the bill passed the House Budget Committee with a vote of 19-17.  It’s important to note that three Republicans on that committee joined the Democrats in opposition.  The bill, HR 1628, then went to the House Rules Committee which sets the terms for the final debate when the bill comes to the House floor for a vote.  The committee approved a provision that allows for the “same-day” rule (or often referred to as martial law), essentially allowing the bill to be voted on the same day even as it is still having changes made to it before being voted out of committee.

In contrast to the fast movement of the American Health Care Act, the Affordable Care Act during the Obama Administration underwent months of negotiations, markup, and debate before its final passage.   It was introduced by Speaker Pelosi in July of 2009 and passed in the House November 2009 and was ultimately not signed into law by then President Obama until March 23, 2010.

Here’s a visual recap of its journey:

AHCA HR 1628.png

The President’s Budget: An O’Neill and Associates Education/Refresher on the Federal Budget Process

As we continue to assess the Trump administration’s policy initiatives, there is growing anticipation surrounding President Trump’s first budget. As we approach this milestone, we thought it would be helpful to share this review of the federal budget process.

Every year the President of the United States submits a budget request to Congress that is drafted in close coordination with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The budget request outlines funding levels for all federal departments and independent agencies, including spending and revenue proposals as well as any new policies and initiatives with significant budget implications.

The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 says that “the President submit the budget between the first Monday in January and the first Monday in February.” More recently, Presidents have traditionally sent a budget request to Congress the first week of February for the coming fiscal year, 2018 in this instance, which begins on October 1st. The budget submission is typically delayed in a new President’s first year in recognition of the complexities of transition.  Before the inauguration, the transition team indicated that we might anticipate a draft proposal or “skinny budget” from President Trump in the first 100 days. However, recent reports suggest that the Trump administration may be preparing a full budget request for as early as mid-March to late spring. This timing is not really surprising as the President’s nominee for OMB Director, South Carolina Representative Mick Mulvaney’s was only approved by the full Senate on February 16th – the longest confirmation wait for an OMB director ever according to RollCall.

More information on the agenda and funding priorities of the Trump administration will likely be revealed when the President addresses a joint session of Congress on February 28th.  President Trump’s speech will not be a formal State of the Union address. Newly inaugurated president’s often deliver a speech on their agenda and goals rather than an assessment on the state of the country. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said at a press briefing today that we can expect the President’s speech to include broad policy initiatives, focused on defining success, as well as look back at what he has accomplished the last month. Additionally the President will share some of his goals to work with Congress on healthcare, tax reform, and infrastructure.  O’Neill and Associates’ federal lobbyists will be live tweeting the speech. You can follow along at #OAPolitics and a follow up analysis will be posted to our blog as well.

Once the President’s Budget request is finally released, it is referred to the House and Senate Budget Committees and to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for an analysis and scoring of the proposal to project the budgetary impact of policies.  With the budget request and CBO budget report, the committees each submit a budget resolution in the House and Senate, respectfully.  Budget resolutions have traditionally been submitted in early April, but we anticipate a later timeframe this year. The House and Senate each considers its own resolution before voting on and passing the resolution.  Once passed, the House and Senate each names a handful of members to a joint conference committee to negotiate a conference report – a reconciliation of any differences between the House and Senate budget resolutions. The final joint budget resolution must be approved by both the House and Senate to be binding. Interestingly, the budget resolution is not a law and does not require the President’s signature. However, it is a guide for Congress in the appropriations process. In a future blog post, we will take a more in-depth look at the appropriations process and the role of Congress, the President and even the role clients can play with former House Appropriations Committee staffer, O’Neill and Associates Vice President AmyClaire Brusch.