CONCURRENT RESOLUTION ON THE BUDGET FOR FISCAL YEAR 2008
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Chairman, I support this budget resolution because it will begin the process of changing our budgetary course.
For 6 years, the Administration and the Republican leadership insisted on speeding ahead with misguided fiscal and economic policies. Ignoring all warning lights, they plowed ahead, taking us from projections of surpluses to the reality budgets deep in deficit and heaping higher the mountain of debt that our children will have to repay.
Many of us said it was urgent to stop persisting in that error and voted for alternatives, including those proposed by the Blue Dog Caucus.
But year after year our Republican colleagues insisted on taking their marching orders from the White House, moving in lockstep to endorse the Bush Administration's insistence that its economic and fiscal policies must continue without change.
I admired their discipline, but I could not support their insistence on driving us deeper into the swamp of fiscal irresponsibility that has left a debt burden of $30,951 for a typical middle-income family of four in Colorado.
And now, in this new Congress under new management, by passing this budget resolution we can begin to undo the damage they have done.
The resolution is better in its fiscal responsibility and in its priorities.
It follows the tough ``pay as you go'' budget rules to begin to reverse the budget deficits and to put us onto the path to a balanced budget. And under this plan, by 2012, domestic discretionary funding would fall to the lowest level, as a share of the economy, in at least a half century while spending as a percentage of GDP will be lower in 2012 than it has been in any budget adopted under President Bush--1 percent lower than it will be this year and lower than it has been in any year since 2001.
At the same time it provides for continuing middle-class tax cuts and reform of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) to protect middle-income families from a tax increase by default. This is important because while in 2004 only 32,000 Colorado families were subject to the AMT, if nothing is done, this year that number will rise to 234,000 families in Colorado and hundreds of thousands more in other States.
As a member of the Armed Services Committee, I am particularly glad to note that the budget resolution is also realistic and responsible about the need to maintain our national defense and honor our promises to our troops and veterans.
It provides for investing $507 billion for national defense and another $145 billion for overseas deployment and other activities while reordering defense priorities in order to make sufficient funds available for nuclear non-proliferation programs, military health care, and military pay raises and benefits.
I think ensuring the people who protect our country are provided for is a significant part of meeting our national defense requirements. So, I'm pleased that the resolution rejects increases in TRICARE fees for military personnel under age 65.
And the budget committee worked with the chairman of our committee, Representative SKELTON, to assure that the resolution will allow Congress to support the implementation of recommendations of the Commission appointed to review conditions at Walter Reed and other military health facilities--a provision that is so important for our wounded warriors.
The resolution provides for a much-needed increase in veterans' programs--for veterans health care, no less than $3.5 billion more this year (and $32 billion over the next 5 years) than the President's budget--to provide health care for new veterans, repair VA health care facilities, make needed investments in veterans' mental health care and traumatic brain injury, and speed up and improve the accuracy of disability claims processing.
This is a priority for me, because it will help ensure that the 427,957 veterans in Colorado receive care worthy of their sacrifice. It is also critical for the 17,419 Coloradans, who have served their country in Afghanistan and Iraq since September 2001, many of whom will need VA health care services.
The resolution also provides for increases homeland security and rejects the cuts to vital first responder and terrorism prevention programs that would happen if we adopted the President's budget for fiscal 2008. I support that because following the President's budget would mean reducing the State Homeland Security Grant Program--which awarded $88,508,658 to Colorado from 2003 to 2006--would be slashed by 52 percent and the Law Enforcement Terrorist Prevention Program (LETPP)--which awarded $22,392,512 to Colorado from 2004 to 2006--would be eliminated.
And the resolution provides for beginning to implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations to make Colorado and our Nation more secure.
Similarly, the resolution recognizes the importance of research, development, and education in keeping our economy strong and our country secure.
It recognizes that scientific research provides the foundation for innovation and our ability to compete with other countries by setting us on a path toward doubling funding for the National Science Foundation and research by other agencies while increasing collaborative research-purpose partnerships.
As a member of the Science and Technology Committee and Chairman of its Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, I am particularly supportive of the resolution because it rejects the President's proposed cuts to aviation programs
within NASA in order to help ensure that such vital programs as development of the next-generation management system for air traffic can go forward.
Similarly, as one of the Chairs of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus, I welcome the resolution's declaration that increased research and development of renewable and alternative energy technologies ``needs to come soon and be substantial.'' I think that sets exactly the right priority.
And I similarly welcome the resolution's allowing for additional emphasis on science, technology, and mathematics (``STEM'') education by increasing funding for National Science Foundation programs that support training qualified teachers in these important areas.
The resolution recognizes the importance of investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency to improve our security by lessening our dependence on foreign oil as well as to reduce global warming and promote new technologies that can create American jobs. So, it creates a reserve fund that could target up to $14 billion over 10 years to invest in clean, renewable alternative energy and energy efficiency paid for by redirecting oil subsidies.
And it restores funding for environmental programs cut by the President's budget--including $3,162,000 in Clean Water revolving loan funds that help Colorado communities improve their wastewater treatment facilities.
As for education, the resolution allows for substantially more funding for helping Colorado's public elementary, middle and high schools educate the 768,600 children now enrolled--nearly $8 billion more in 2008 and 11 percent more over the next 5 years for education and training programs than requested by the President.
This means more resources to implement the No Child Left Behind Act, special education and Head Start. By contrast, if we followed the President's budget, 31,296 Colorado children would not receive promised help in reading and math and the Head Start program--which serves 9,820 Colorado children--would be cut by 1.5 percent below the 2007 level.
Small businesses are essential for Colorado's economy--and the resolution
rejects the President's proposal to cut the Small Business Administration by 26 percent from last year's request and 56 percent from 2000. It also recognizes the importance of job training for the kind of high-skilled workforce we need to keep America competitive--which is why it rejects the President's proposal to eliminate $54,403,000 in funding for job training and employment services in Colorado.
These investments to a growing economy for America's families are needed because, according to the Census Bureau, family income in Colorado has dropped by $4,041 since 2000, while health care and energy prices are climbing. But still more is needed.
So, I am glad that the resolution provides for increasing funding for State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)--to help cover the 176,230 of Colorado's children do not have health insurance. And I am pleased that it also rejects the Administration's proposal to cut Medicare funding by $261,719,066 for Colorado hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and home health care providers--another misguided proposal that would make health care less accessible and affordable for many Coloradans.
Mr. Chairman, I can understand why the Bush Administration does not like this resolution. After all, it rejects the Administration's misguided priorities. But it's disappointing that so many of our Republican colleagues still are so willing to unquestioningly follow the president's lead. And, while I suppose it's to be expected, it's particularly unfortunate that they have decided to attack this budget resolution by resorting to recycling the old, tired--and false--claim that it is ``the largest tax increase in history.''
The fact is that this is no tax increase in the resolution. It assumes the same level of revenues between now and 2012 period as projected by the Congressional Budget Office under its current-policy baseline, which essentially assumes no change in current laws governing taxes.
In other words, this resolution does not affect the top-heavy tax cuts the Bush Administration and the Republican leadership pushed through since 2001--they remain in place as they stand, which means they will not expire for 4 years.
I did not vote for all of those tax cuts, but I did support some that are most important for middle-income Coloradans. So, I am glad that the resolution provides for extensions of those in 2011, including an extension of the child tax credit, marriage penalty relief, and the 10 percent individual income tax bracket.
And when the rest of the tax cuts come up for reconsideration, Congress can and should consider whether to extend them, as they are now or in modified form.
I support that approach, which is quite different from the alternative approach taken by the Republican alternative, which insists on locking in all of the Bush tax cuts--the ones I did not support as well as those I did--and would put top priority on making them all permanent.
There are some things in the Republican alternative that I do support--including a constitutionally-sound line-item veto similar to my Stimulating Leadership in Cutting Expenditures (``SLICE'') legislation--but overall I think it is not a responsible approach and I cannot support it, just as I cannot support the other alternatives that go too far in the other direction by calling for large tax increases.
Unlike all those alternatives, the resolution developed by the Budget Committee is the best balanced in its combination of fiscal responsibility and refocusing priorities. I will support it and I urge its approval by the House.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT