CONCURRENT RESOLUTION ON THE BUDGET FOR FISCAL YEAR 2006 -- (House of Representatives - March 16, 2005)
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the chairman's leadership in this effort. As he noted in his opening statement, we have spent a great deal in these past few years to secure our Nation in the wake of the September 11 attacks. But at the same time we were directing a huge new share of resources to those urgent needs, we were also continuing to keep pace in our domestic nonsecurity programs like education, health care, veterans, agriculture, a whole host of other issues outside of defense and homeland security that people associate with their government.
On 9/11, our priorities shifted as a Nation, but our fiscal priorities remained the same. We kept growing our domestic programs by the same levels we had been, the rate of which would have been unsustainable even without a September 11. Over the past decade, we have increased programs almost across the board, and in many cases doubled, tripled or even quadrupled the rate of inflation.
I say that because out of one side of the mouth of the opposition comes a plea for fiscal restraint and out of the other side comes a hue and cry at the devastating terrible cuts that are being beset upon the American people.
Let us look at what the impact of domestic spending has been over the past decade. A Mount Everest of increases in discretionary spending. As we can see, overall discretionary spending grows since 1994, a very steep line. With the exception of last year which was the first time in a long time that we began the process of slowing growth, on average we have increased discretion spending by 6.1 percent per year for over a decade.
Let us look at some of the key areas that make up that portion of the spending. In the last 5 years, the Republican Congress has increased education funding by an average of almost 12 percent per year. Over that same period of time, spending for the Department of Education has increased by 75 percent, almost doubling our commitment. In fact, aside from the newly created Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Education has grown faster than any other Federal agency or Department during this period.
Let us look at some of the key programs that make up two-thirds of the Department of Education's budget. Title I, since 2000 title I funding for low-income schools has increased by 55 percent. Pell grants which help provide lower-income students with funding for college has increased by 57 percent over 5 years. And while this decision will be left up to the authorizing committee, the President's budget request called for increasing that amount that students are eligible to receive under this program.
Let us look at funding for our special needs students. IDEA, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, provides for those needs of our most important and sensitive children in the school system; funding has increased by 87 percent in the past 5 years.
In addition to increased funding, Congress also passed the No Child Left Behind Act which demands results in exchange for dollars. It works to forge a real link between education spending and classroom achievement while focusing resources on underperforming schools.
Now let us look at veterans, those men and women who have done so much to secure the freedoms and liberties that we enjoy and take for granted on a regular basis. I think that everyone should be proud of the commitment that we have made and continue to make in the area of veterans benefits.
Since Republicans took control of the Congress in 1995, tremendous strides have been made in improving benefits for our Nation's veterans through hefty increases. Budget authority since 1995 has increased 77 percent, beginning at $38 billion, ending up at $67.6 billion. A tremendous increase. In fact, that 77 percent increase compares to only a 40 percent increase over the previous 10 years.
Spending per veteran. Let us get right down to the veteran in your district. Spending per veteran since 1995, increased payments per veteran have gone up 103 percent compared with 43 percent during the previous 10 years. You could walk into any Legion Hall or VFW complex in America and be proud of that number.
Since 1995, we have increased VA medical care funding from $16.2 billion to almost $30 billion. And in 1996 and 1999, Congress expanded eligibility for medical care and as a result the number of veterans utilizing VA care has nearly doubled.
The Montgomery GI bill. Those veterans who return home and seek to improve their lot and develop their education skills, since 1995 Montgomery GI education benefits have gone from $405 to $1,004, an increase of 147 percent. And I will also note that prior to the Republican take over in 1995, under 40 years of Democrat control, there was no progress whatsoever on concurrent receipts. Now military retirees injured in combat or while training for combat who are 50 percent or more service disabled, are able for the first time in over 100 years to receive retirement benefits at the same time as their veterans disability compensation.
About a month ago, the Charleston Gazette ran this quote, and I will share it: ``Bush increased VA spending by 27 percent in his first term. As factcheck.org pointed out, funding for veterans is going up twice as fast under Bush as it did under Clinton. And the number of veterans getting health benefits is going up 25 percent.''
The bottom line is that domestic discretionary needs have been met and continue to be met under this blueprint that the gentleman from Iowa (Mr. Nussle) presents today.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT