HATCH: CONGRESS MUST MAKE BUSH TAX CUTS PERMANENT TO KEEP ECONOMY ON TARGET
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) today expressed his support for President George W. Bush's budget for Fiscal Year 2009. Although the budget isn't perfect, Hatch supports the President's goal to rein in spending and make the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts permanent.
"The call to make these tax cuts permanent has been a top item in the President's budget for years," Hatch said. "The Bush pro-growth tax cuts have helped fuel the last six years of growth, and helped the country absorb the shock of terrorist attacks, corporate scandals, wars, and devastating natural disasters."
Absent action from Congress, these tax cuts will expire on the last day of 2010. Even though this date is still almost three years away, the seriousness of this situation should not be understated.
"If we do not make these tax cuts permanent, the nation will suffer the largest tax increase in history, almost $2.2 trillion over 10 years," Hatch said. "We know when it will hit and we know how serious it is. This Congress should not sit on its hands another year and ignore this dire warning."
Moreover, specific line items in the President's budget will:
Support veterans: The Bush Administration continues to out do itself in the support of our nation's veterans. From 2001 to 2009, Veterans Administration medical care funding has increased by 106 percent and overall funding has increased by 104 percent.
Protect our borders: The President's budget increases funding for homeland security by 7.8 percent ($500 million). This, in part, will enable the hiring of 2,200 new Border Patrol agents. The President has doubled the number of agents - from approximately 9,000 agents to 20,000 agents - since before Sept. 11, 2001. He also asks for $2 billion over two years to continue to construct additional miles of fencing and other technological infrastructure to protect the border, and 1,000 new detention beds, bringing the total number to 33,000.
Train more nurses: The President requests $110 million for nursing education and loan repayment opportunities, which Hatch predicts will go a long way to help secure nurses in areas with critical shortages, such as rural communities. Nurses in Utah have frequently told Hatch that health care simply does not have enough new nursing students coming in to address the nationwide shortage.
Enhance the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP): The President's FY 2009 budget increases CHIP state allotments by $19.7 billion through 2013. Last year, the President's budget called $4.2 billion for the CHIP program. While Hatch appreciates this dramatic increase in the President's request for CHIP funding, the Senator regrets that last year members of Congress and the Administration couldn't have had more fruitful discussions on realistic funding levels for the CHIP program.
Improve mine safety: Following the Crandall Canyon Mine disaster in Utah last year, Hatch is pleased to report that the President's budget requests $332 million for the Mining Safety and Health Administration, a 6 percent increase from last year. Among other things, this additional money will provide for 55 new safety enforcement personnel.
Streamline Medicare: The President's budget will reduce the Medicare program by $12.2 billion in FY 2009 and $178 billion over five years. The good news is that Medicare beneficiaries' premiums will be reduced by $6.2 billion over five years.
Modernize Medicaid: The President's budget continues the changes made in the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) to modernize the financing, benefit structure and infrastructure of Medicaid. According to the President's budget, it will continue these policies to restrain growth rates and promote the long-term viability of the Medicaid program.
Help struggling and charter schools: The President calls for $14.3 billion for Title 1 schools, which are those with high concentrations of disadvantaged students as determined by eligibility for free and reduced lunches. This amount is a 63-percent increase since 2001. For charter schools, the President proposes $25 million in Federal grants, which is a 12-percent increase toward providing additional, quality options for parents and students in Utah.
Improve child literacy: The President calls for $1 billion in effective, research-based literacy instruction through Reading First, intended to ensure that every child can read at grade-level by third grade, a goal of Utah educators for years. The budget calls for $491 million for School Improvement Grants to help turn around schools in need of improvement.
Boost Utah's contribution to space exploration: The budget allocates $1 billion for the continued development of the Ares I Crew Launch Vehicle. Space aeronautics company ATK, with facilities in Utah, is responsible for the first stage of this rocket.
Hatch is extremely concerned about the Administration's flat funding of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, which compensates states, like Utah, with large chunks of federally-held lands that yield no property tax for schools. The administration requests $195 million for PILT, which is well below the $232 million appropriation that Congress made for PILT last year. Hatch has always been dedicated to the PILT program and will fight to make sure Utah gets its fair share of federal dollars for education.
The Administration proposes an almost 25 percent cut in funds for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. The rationale is that the program is "not well-targeted to the neediest communities and its results have not been adequately demonstrated." Hatch supports the necessary fiscal restraint of the budget proposal, but is concerned that cutting support for the CDBG program may harm critical community development in Utah that could otherwise be leveraged by this funding.
While the President is continuing his goal to balance the federal budget by 2012, he also has his eye on keeping the economy afloat in the short term.
"In the short-term, the President's budget reemphasizes the importance of Congress very quickly sending him a short-term economic stimulus package," Hatch said. "While the bill passed by the House last week is far from perfect, it was approved very quickly, it is targeted, it is bipartisan, and I believe it will be effective. I agree with the President that we cannot let this important legislation get bogged down by adding extra spending or other ideas that may not be as effective in stimulating the economy. The good news is that the Senate voted today to proceed to the House bill."