Obama Statement on the 2007 Budget
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today released the following statement about the proposed 2007 budget:
"Never before have Americans paid so much for a budget that does so little to keep them safe, secure, and prosperous in a 21st century economy. After years of shelling out billions in taxpayer dollars to well-connected and well-financed special interests, the President is facing a debt so large that he cannot afford the promises he's made to the American people.
"In the State of the Union, the President rightly praised our homeland defenders for their bravery, but gave us a budget that takes cops off the street and equipment from our firefighters. He called for us to stand united behind our troops, but his budget will cause 800,000 veterans to lose their health care. We heard about progress on crime and drugs, but see a budget with fewer resources to fight meth use at a time when local communities tell us it's the greatest threat to public safety. We heard about the need to make America more competitive in a 21st century economy, but now find out that thousands of students will be forced to give up college dreams as student aid is slashed for yet another year. And he talked about the importance of affordable health care, but he cut funding to provide health care to rural communities by 73 percent.
"The American people wanted to believe last Tuesday night that this President was ready to lead this country in a new direction, but they now see a budget that says more about this President's priorities than words ever can.
"In the months ahead, I look forward to working with members of both parties to end the special interest giveaways that have left us in debt so that we can finally keep the promise of a safer and more prosperous America."
THE BUDGET BY THE NUMBERS
Unprecedented Fees on Military Retirees
The President is proposing an unprecedented increase in fees for military retirees using TRICARE, the military's managed care health program.
By 2008, the President's plan would reportedly:
* Triple the TRICARE Prime enrollment fee for retired officers (from $230 to $750). Double enrollment fees for enlisted retirees (from $230 to $450).
* Double the deductibles for officers (from $150 to $300) and increase deductibles for enlisted members by 33 percent ($150 to $200).
* Establish first-ever enrollment fees for TRICARE Standard at $300 for officers and $200 for enlisted retirees.
* Increase TRICARE pharmacy co-pays from $3 to $5 for generic drugs and from $9 to $15 for brand-name drugs.
Critics estimate that as many as 600,000 military retirees younger than 65 will drop out of TRICARE plans by 2015 because of the proposed fees.
New Fees for Veterans Making More than $26,000
For the fourth year in a row, the President is proposing higher health fees and drug co-payments for veterans' health care that would drive more than 213,000 veterans out of the VA system. The President would force veterans who do not have service-connected disabilities and make more than an average of $25,842 to pay a new $250 annual enrollment fee for their medical care and would double their drug co-payments from $8 to $15, for a 30 day supply.
Continuing Ban on Middle-Income Veterans with No Service-Related Disabilities
The President' plan continues the ban on new Priority 8 enrollments; this includes veterans making more than $25,842 without a service-related disability. Through this ban, the VA denied health care to 8,944 Illinois veterans last year. Nationally, more than 260,000 veterans were denied access to VA hospitals, clinics and medications last year. The VA's income cutoff varies by county. In Illinois, this averages $36,600 and ranges from a low of $27,350 in 36 rural and low-income counties to $40,250 in the Chicago area. The 2005 national average for a single veteran was $25,842.
Cuts Funding for Police Officers
The President's Budget cuts the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program by 80 percent. In 2005, COPS provided $7.4 million for hiring police officers in more than 60 Illinois Communities. Since 1994, the program has funded 5,854 police officers in Illinois with grants topping $416 million. Since 1994, Illinois has received more than $45 million in COPS grants to purchase crime-fighting technologies - an average of $2.8 million per year in equipment that helps law enforcement save time, share information, and improve communications. The President's budget would completely eliminate funding for crime-fighting technologies under the COPS program.
Eliminate Funding to Fight Meth
The President would eliminate a critical source of assistance to police departments, the Byrne Memorial Grant Program. This year, more than 40 Illinois communities are splitting $12.9 million for Byrne Memorial Grants. Next year, they would receive nothing under the President's proposal. These grants help communities fight violent crime and provide assistance to victims of crime. Money provided by Byrne grants has been crucial in helping communities across Illinois join forces to combat this drug. In 2004 alone, Byrne grants helped Illinois cops make 1,267 methamphetamine-related arrests and seize 348,923 grams of meth.
Cuts Firefighters Assistance by 55 Percent
The President cuts funding for the Assistance for Firefighters Program by 55 percent from $629 million to $280 million. The program helps fire departments get critically needed equipment and training to protect the public. Illinois received 278 grants totaling $25.4 million for assistance to firefighters in 2005. If funding allocations remain the same next year, Illinois firefighters stand to lose $17 million from 2005.
Freeze Need-based Funding for College Students
The Bush budget freezes the maximum Pell grant at $4,050, for the fourth year in a row, despite rising tuition costs. In 1975, the Pell Grant covered 80 percent of the cost of a four-year public college education. Today, that number is about 40 percent