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Wonkology: Federal Fiscal Year

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September 23, 2014

Wonkology: Federal Fiscal Year

The federal fiscal year is the 12-month period commencing October 1 and ending the following September 30.

Staying on Course

Prior to the passage of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Act of 1974, the federal fiscal year began each year on July 1. This law pushed back the starting date to October 1 to allow Congress greater time to craft its appropriations (or spending) bills. A federal fiscal year is referred to as the calendar year in which it ends, so Federal Fiscal Year 2015 begins this coming October 1.

Stopping to Ask for Directions

If lawmakers follow regular order, Congress will agree to and pass 12 separate appropriations bills by September 30 that fund the federal government's operations for the next year. In recent years, Congress has often circumvented this process by taking up and passing omnibus appropriations bills that consolidate those bills into one, massive spending vehicle. Congress alternatively uses a continuing resolution – or "CR" – to temporarily fund the government, typically at the current budgetary levels, to give Congress more time to negotiate appropriations.

Off Another Cliff?

Last October, Congress was unable to pass either regular order appropriations or an omnibus or a CR by October 1 to fund Federal Fiscal Year 2014, resulting in the shutdown the federal government for 16 days. Despite the budget agreement reached last December, Congress has not yet sent a single appropriations bill for Federal Fiscal Year 2015 to the President. Even in the face of political differences, Congress is expected to pass a continuing resolution in September that would delay spending debates past the upcoming mid-term elections to the Lame Duck, avoiding another costly government shutdown.

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