As he pushed for House Republican leaders to allow consideration of a compromise to replace the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration, Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) voiced his strong opposition to legislation passed today that continues this harmful policy. The government-wide appropriations bill (H.R. 933), which determines funding levels for the remainder of the fiscal year, maintains sequestration's impact rather than reducing the deficit in a responsible way. Langevin, along with House and Senate Democrats, have offered a plan that targets less important programs for significant cuts and generates new revenue by enacting the Buffett rule, ending tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas, and limiting tax subsidies for oil and gas companies.
This year, sequestration's impact on Rhode Island would include cuts to early, primary and secondary education, a reduction in job training and placement services, fewer health screenings, losses in affordable housing and a decrease in nutrition assistance for seniors (see further details below).
In a rare positive provision for Rhode Island, the bill adopted proposals championed by Langevin to ensure Electric Boat can continue to build two Virginia Class Submarines per year. This construction supports jobs at the company and ensures the military is fully equipped with a boat that defense leaders have deemed critical to our national security.
"While I appreciate that the defense portion of this legislation takes the necessary steps to sustain Electric Boat's submarine construction, it is irresponsible to cement sequestration's arbitrary cuts that treat our highest priorities the same as our lowest," said Langevin. "This approach eviscerates key initiatives in education, low-income housing, medical research and emergency response, while putting jobs at many defense companies and other contractors at risk. It is unfathomable that Republican leaders refuse to negotiate a balanced solution to our fiscal challenges because of their insistence that not one wasteful tax loophole can be closed to raise revenue."
Protecting Submarine Construction Amid Uncertainty from Sequestration
Funding for Virginia Class Submarines in today's legislation builds on an effort that Langevin helped lead to prevent a cut in production in 2014 that was proposed by the Administration. The Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed into law in December, permitted production to continue with two submarines in 2014 despite current budget restrictions by including provisions that Langevin advocated to spread the costs over the multi-year process of building the boat. However, as reported by the Associated Press, final determination of funding levels is still dependent on the appropriations process in an uncertain budgetary climate.
Today's legislation includes the NDAA's $777 million to support construction of a second submarine in 2014. Langevin and Congressman Joe Courtney (D-CT) had written to leaders on the Appropriations Committee last week requesting this funding.
In addition, the bill allows the military to move forward with multiyear procurement plans for ten Virginia Class Submarines over the next five years, and fully funds the development of the next generation of ballistic missile submarines that are critical to our future strategic deterrent.
Sequestration Impact on Rhode Island
Many Rhode Islanders stand to lose if sequestration moves forward in this tenuous economy. Seven percent of all of the state's revenue comes from grants subject to the sequester.
In addition, the impact on Rhode Island this year alone could include:
A loss of approximately $2.4 million in funding for primary and secondary education, putting around 30 teacher and aide jobs at risk and resulting in about 3,000 fewer students being served;
Elimination of preschool Head Start services for approximately 200 children;
A cut of about $126,000 in funding for job search assistance, referral, and placement, meaning around 4,550 fewer people would get the help and skills they need to find employment;
A reduction of $5 million in funds used for affordable housing programs, including homeless assistance;
A cut by as much as 9.4 percent to emergency unemployment compensation, with affected long-term unemployed individuals losing an average of more than $400 on benefits received beyond 26 weeks;
A limit on access to breast and cervical cancer screening, with a cut of up to $120,000 affecting about 500 women; and
A decrease of about $188,000 in nutrition assistance for seniors.