Cantwell: President's Budget Continues to Shortchange Americans
Monday, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) expressed her dismay at the president's Fiscal Year 2009 budget which, as in years past, breaks commitments to Washington state residents and does nothing to curb the rising costs of energy, health care and education. Cantwell looks forward to working with the next administration in crafting a budget that is not only fiscally responsible, but protects successful programs benefitting small businesses and the middle class.
Cantwell identified eight specific ways the administration's budget request falls short:
Clean Energy Tax Incentives: The President's budget does not extend any of the clean energy tax incentives. If Congress does not send a positive signal that U.S. policy will support the growth of the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries by extending the tax credits now, investments could quickly shift to other countries, where national policies are more favorable. According to research conducted by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and Management Information Services, Inc. (MISI), renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies (RE&EE) are driving significant economic growth in the United States. In 2006, the renewable energy industry generated $40 billion in gross revenues; and was responsible for 450,000 direct and indirect jobs.
"With job loss figures reaching 18,000 now is not the time to sacrifice high-quality, high-paying jobs by letting the clock run out on critical tax incentives that will pump money back in to our economy ," said Cantwell. "By not extending these tax credits in his budget, the President is blocking billions of dollars in investment and preventing companies from moving forward with renewable energy investments."
Health Care: The President's budget slashes funding to Medicare and Medicaid by almost $200 billion. The major source of this amount is through Medicare, with $178 billion cuts over 5 years. The Medicare cuts are achieved primarily by freezing annual updates for providers for $117 billion. The budget also cuts CDC health and wellness programs by $29 million at a time when preventable chronic diseases (heart disease, diabetes, etc) are accounting for nearly 75 percent of the $2.1 trillion our country spends on healthcare.
"The Bush Administration's budget once again unfairly punishes Washington state for providing efficient health care under the Medicare program," said Cantwell. "Cutting Medicare payments for Washington providers won't encourage efficiency; it will penalize us for being efficient. Now is the time to increase access for American seniors to affordable and quality healthcare, not cut the very programs on which they rely."
Education: The President's budget freezes overall Department of Education spending at $59.2 billion, and once again fails to provide schools with the resources needed to comply with federal testing requirements under No Child Left Behind. The budget underfunds No Child Left Behind by $14.7 billion, for a total shortfall of at least $85.6 billion since it was enacted. Funding for disabled students once again falls far short of the 40 percent federal share that was promised to states when the government began assisting with educating students with disabilities. The entire $1.3 billion in federal career and vocational education programs would be eliminated, meaning a loss of over $23.6 million for Washington state and local school districts.
"In order to keep our economy strong and competitive, we must make education a top priority," said Cantwell. "This seems to be a continuing trend with this administration. We have to invest in programs that help students succeed, not continue to put them on the chopping block. We have to make a quality education affordable and accessible for students of all ages. This budget puts us down the wrong path."
Law Enforcement: The President's budget cuts all funding for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program and the Community Oriented Policing, (COPS) program. Last year, after a similar budget from the President, Congress restored $175 million for the JAG program and $251 million for the COPS program. These programs have been a success in the past and are essential to funding the fight against meth, gangs, and violent crime in Washington state.
"Just last month, the White House warned about the rise in methamphetamine-laced ecstasy flowing across the Canadian border into the United States," said Cantwell. "This is no time to cut federal assistance to state and local law enforcement's fight against meth, gangs, and violent crime."
Weatherizing Program: The President's budget cut the government's most successful energy efficiency effort, the Weatherization Assistance Program. The program enables low-income families to permanently reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient. The Weatherization Assistance Program provides weatherization services free of charge to approximately 100,000 low-income households every year, 9 percent of whom have annual incomes of less than $15,000, and two-thirds earn less than $8,000 per year. On average, weatherization reduces heating bills by 31 percent and overall energy bills by $358 per year. This year, using funds already appropriated, Washington state will receive $4.5 million dollars from the DOE Weatherization program which will help provide services to 1300 households.
"At a time of economic uncertainty when American's can't afford to heat their homes, this is not the time for the Administration to make cuts to energy efficient programs," said Cantwell. "Nearly 1,300 households in Washington state will benefit from this program in 2008."
Hanford: While the president's budget request provides sustained funding for the vitrification plant, it yet again acknowledges that critical cleanup milestones will not be met under the budget proposal. Cleanup completion projects are cut by $45 million.
"American taxpayers should not be left responsible for cleaning up the mess left by corporate polluters," said Cantwell. "The federal government has an obligation to clean up Hanford and protect future generations from toxic waste and contamination. Washington cannot afford these drastic cuts or further delays."
Salmon Recovery: The President's budget cut the Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund (PCSRF) by $55 million below the full funding level of $90 million, and $32 million from current funding levels. The PCSRF provides grant funding to western states and tribes to assist state, local, and tribal efforts to conserve and recover Pacific salmon and their habitat.
"This funding helps make significant progress in protecting these important fish species, which are critical to the Pacific Northwest," said Cantwell. "The Administration's budget request is a big step backward for undertaking the necessary work to recover the 26 Pacific salmon and steelhead species listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act."
County Payments: The President's budget imposed drastic cuts to the critical County Payments program - cutting more than $1.4 billion over the next four years. Cantwell has long fought to renew and fully fund County Payments, which expired last year after years of supplying funding to the over 700 counties in 39 states.
"The Administration has repeatedly stood in the way of renewing this critical lifeline for our rural counties," said Cantwell. "If this successful program disappears, communities throughout the Northwest wont have access to funds for roads, schools, and emergency services."