February 15, 2011
Yesterday President Obama released his budget proposal for NEXT fiscal year (October 2011 thru September 2012) and late Friday, House Republicans released their proposal for the rest of THIS fiscal year (March 2011 thru Sept 2011) in the form of a Continuing Resolution (CR).
We will have months to debate the FY 2012 budget and I hope we can find some common ground moving forward. This week, the House will vote on the Republican proposal that covers THIS YEAR and I want to focus on that today.
You may have read that Republicans originally proposed cuts totaling $30 billion. However, due to pressure from their new Members, that proposal was amended and now includes $100 billion in cuts to this year's budget.
This link http://republicans.appropriations.house.gov/_files/ProgramCutsFY2011ContinuingResolution.pdf will take you to the complete list of proposed cuts as provided by the Republican Chair of the House Appropriations Committee. As you will see, it is wide ranging and impacts almost every non-defense program in the country. As I have said many times, I consider myself a fiscal conservative and I believe that we must address our staggering federal deficit. That is why I opposed tax cuts for millionaires in December. We couldn't afford them last year, and the cuts proposed in this CR illustrate that reality so clearly.
Because the current CR expires on March 4th, we are basically focusing on the seven months left in the fiscal year. These cuts can't be absorbed over one year. Instead, all the cuts will have to be absorbed into the last 7 months of program and agency budgets. So much programming will be severely impacted that it would be impossible to list all of it. But I wanted to share some lowlights with you as we begin consideration of this funding bill.
H.R. 1, the Continuing Resolution:
- Provides $1.1 billion less than FY 2010 levels for Community Health Centers, a health care life line for so many Americans, and a reduction in funding that would cause real hardship for those who rely on the vital services offered;
- Reduces funding directed to the National Institute of Health (NIH) by $1.6 billion; this would bring the NIH budget back to FY 2008 levels. It also places a limit of $400,000 on all research grant awards made by NIH. This will have a significant negative impact on Massachusetts and the 8th district, where so much life saving and cutting edge research is done every day;
- Reduces Head Start funding, directing 15% less than the FY 2010 budget for this program;
- Cuts the Community Services Block Grant program by a troubling 46%. This is funding available to social services agencies so that they can help some of our most vulnerable citizens with child care, home heating help, housing assistance and many other services;
- Reduces Department of Energy Science accounts by $893 million, which will impact university research here and all over the country;
- Cuts funding for the Community-Oriented Policing Services (COPS) by more than $200 million and completely eliminates the funding that was previously available to hire police officers. Many communities are struggling to avoid public safety layoffs and losing access to this money will make it harder to preserve jobs;
- Cuts funding for the Federal Transit Administration's New Starts program by 22%, reducing the money available for transit programs all over the country, some of which are already under construction;
- Cuts money for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) by $400 million. LIHEAP Contingency funds would also be cut by 66%. These contingency funds are particularly important, and are often used for states experiencing severe winters;
- Cuts FEMA grants to firefighters by 64% and FEMA's grant program to state and local governments by $783 million. These funds are used by communities to upgrade aging public safety equipment and many would have trouble making up these resources;
- Reduces the Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) by 66%. This is money used by cities and towns for so many programs ranging from housing assistance and park rehabilitation to business improvement help;
- Cuts Section 202 Housing for the Elderly by $551 million, a 70% reduction in funds;
- Cuts Housing for Individuals with Disabilities by $210 million, a 70% reduction in funds;
- Funding for the Women, Infants and Children's (WIC) program would be cut by $747 million.
There are so many other programs that will be severely reduced if the CR advances as it is currently written. And it's not just programming that is at risk. The nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute released an analysis of the impact of the CR, concluding that it would result in more than 800,000 job losses, which is, of course, exactly the wrong direction. You will find their analysis here: http://www.epi.org/analysis_and_opinion/entry/righting_the_fiscal_ship_the_wrong_way/
I am not opposed to all programming cuts. There are many cuts we can and should make that will not cause so much pain for so many. For example, the CR doesn't touch defense spending. In January, Secretary Gates himself proposed $78 billion in cuts to the Defense Department. There is no reason why some savings cannot be found in defense spending.
Debate on H.R. 1 begins today with a vote expected by the end of this week. I will keep you posted as the House deliberates.