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Public Statements

Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

* Ms. HIRONO. Mr. Chair, I rise in strong opposition to H. Con. Res. 34, the FY 2012 Budget Resolution. Instead of having the wealthiest pay their fair share, this budget just helps the ``haves'' at the expense of everyone else.

* The Republican majority has brought this bill to the floor for a vote today, claiming that this budget will resolve our fiscal crisis and lead our country back on the ``path to prosperity.'' Sadly, this path to prosperity only applies to those who already have a lot and don't need more. Millionaires and billionaires will like the tax breaks that they'll get from this budget. The wealthiest Americans will get the Bush tax cuts permanently extended to the tune of $1 trillion. Big Oil companies will get tens of billions of dollars in subsidies. Special interests that send jobs overseas will also like this budget's tax giveaways.

* What should scare us most about this FY2012 budget is that it pays for all of these tax breaks--over $4 trillion in tax cuts--on the backs of working and middle-class people. It asks those who are struggling the most to sacrifice even more.

* The recession has increased the child poverty rate in Hawaii to its highest level in years. This reverse Robin Hood budget would drastically cut food programs for poor children, Head Start, and child care for working families. Today, my staff and I are fasting in solidarity with the 50 million people in America who don't know where their next meal is coming from. is coordinating this effort with over 30,000 people, including Members of Congress, Ambassador Tony Hall, faith leaders, MoveOn and SEIU members, Moby, and others.

* H. Con. Res. 34 ends Medicare as we know it. All of you under the age of 55 will not be able to enroll in the original Medicare program. In Hawaii, the under-55 population is slightly less than a million. When you are age 67--yes, that's right, Republicans are raising the Medicare enrollment age by two more years--you will receive a voucher that you will use to buy insurance from a private company. We don't know what the amount of the voucher will be or whether it will keep up with the rising costs of health care. This scheme privatizes Medicare.

* You're 67 years old. Is trying to buy health insurance with your voucher what you want to be doing? Every year? And who knows if the doctor you like is even going to participate in your private insurance plan. One thing is for certain--privatizing Medicare will mean more business for the insurance companies.

* The Republican plan doesn't take on the 48 million Americans already on Medicare or those that will enter the program in 10 years because the Republicans know that this voucher plan would make these seniors mad as hell. Many of you have parents on Medicare. My mom is on Medicare. Without Medicare, we would be worried sick about how our parents will pay for health care.

* Before Medicare became law in 1965, half of all seniors had no health insurance. The Republican budget is not only out of step with the priorities of the nation, but it is also a step backwards when it comes to health care for those who need it the most.

* This budget also takes away important health care reform benefits for seniors who are already on Medicare. It repeals the gradual elimination of the Medicare ``donut hole'' in prescription drug coverage. It also repeals free access to key preventive services and annual checkups. Over 48 million seniors with Medicare, including 208,500 in Hawaii, would have to pay more if they want to stay healthy by getting regular check-ups.

* Another group most in need of medical care in our country--the poor--would see cuts of about $771 billion from Medicaid over 10 years. Medicaid would be converted into a block grant program, which won't reflect the actual need for Medicaid services. Converting Medicaid into a fixed funding stream would raise the cost of nursing home care for millions of families, potentially reducing the quality of care. It would also impact seniors and disabled individuals who want home- or community-based support as opposed to expensive institutional care.

* Seventeen governors, including our former colleague and now Governor of Hawaii Neil Abercrombie, have written to the Speaker in opposition to the Republican plan to block grant Medicaid. They know that this would place an unfair burden on the cost of health care on the states. Under the Republican plan, Hawaii alone would lose $2.8 billion in federal Medicaid dollars over 10 years. This means that 29,600 seniors could lose their Medicaid coverage or see reduced benefits due to the proposed Republican cut, resulting in 161,500 children losing their Medicaid coverage.

* In addition to the problematic changes that this budget makes to Medicare and Medicaid, this short-sighted budget prevents us from investing in our workforce and growing our economy. The Republican budget cuts education and job training by more than 25 percent below current levels. Pell grants, funding for low-income elementary and secondary schools, and workforce training programs would be targeted for steep cuts. The bill also makes drastic cuts to local law enforcement and first responder programs at a time when many states, including Hawaii, are dealing with severe budget deficits.

* This short-sighted budget also fails to invest in infrastructure or create jobs in the transportation sector. While I'm working with my colleagues in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to approve a new multi-year highway and transit program, this Republican budget withdraws about $318 billion in resources from highway, transit, and other transportation initiatives over the next 10 years. In the meantime, commuters are paying higher gas prices at the pump, seeking alternative modes of transportation, and dealing with congestion on our nation's roads, which along with our public transportation, were given a grade of ``D'' by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

* The resolution offered by the Republicans further fails to make critical investments in research and development (R&D) in science, health, and renewable energy, undermining our global competitiveness in R&D. Hawaii's families pay higher energy costs than anyone else in the country. Under this bill, oil companies can continue to get subsidies while making record profits. Funding for development of renewable energy sources is slashed by 60 percent, ensuring that we will remain dependent on imported fossil fuels and sending a signal to the markets that clean energy jobs are not a priority.

* Instead of supporting the draconian cuts proposed by this Republican plan, I will vote for the fairer and more balanced plans proposed as alternatives to H. Con. Res. 34. These alternatives address our deficit in a more responsible way by assisting our most vulnerable during a time of fragile economic recovery. I will support investments that will create jobs and ensure that our country remains the leader in innovation and the engine driving the global economy.

* I urge my colleagues to vote against H. Con. Res. 34.

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