By Casey Bortnick
On the eve of President Obama's budget presentation, a Western New York Republican joined the AARP in criticizing an expected decrease in the amount paid out in Social Security benefits by restructuring cost of living adjustments. Chris Collins says the move would hurt seniors and veterans.
"If you change the calculation of the consumer price index and how you calculate inflation, that's going to continue to pinch our seniors who, come the end of the month, the stories I hear, are having trouble putting food on the table," Collins said.
According to the AARP, changing the way the consumer price index is calculated would cost seniors and veteran pension recipients in Erie County $476 Million in future benefits. An AARP representative told YNN's Ryan Whalen Tuesday, the "Chained CPI" expected in the President's budget would hit Erie County harder than originally expected.
"It does not take into account the fixed costs that the seniors or all of us have, such as utilities, your healthcare costs, prescription drugs, gasoline. You can't make a substitution for those. So that will make it even more difficult, particularly for those who are struggling to begin with," AARP advocate Dave Hollen said.
Collins says this proposal impacts Western New York more than other parts of the country because there are more seniors.
"We're not a wealthy community. So many of our seniors, I think the number is 75 percent of the average senior's lifestyle, is supported by Social Security. They don't have pensions and other savings," Collins said.
The Clarence Republican is one of only a handful of GOP lawmakers criticizing the "chained CPI." The inclusion in the President's budget is seen as an olive branch to Republicans, many of whom seem optimistic about the plan.
"I'm frankly very disappointed that he (Obama) is focusing on seniors," Collins said.
Collins says there are other, more obvious cuts in spending that could be made. Collins expects his GOP colleagues to join him in opposing an expected call from the President for increased tax revenue and spending.
"He doesn't think we have a spending problem. He thinks we have a revenue problem and the cuts he's making are on the backs of our seniors," Collins said.
The AARP recently polled its members in New Yorkand found most oppose benefit decreases. In this case, Collins agrees.
"If you look at what you would call the Ryan Budget; that budget was balanced without taking things away from seniors," Collins added.