Monday, April 16, 2012

Prosperity Turned Upside Down in House Budget Proposals

By Catalyst Miami President/CEO Daniella Levine

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget proposal at the end of March, ironically titled "The Path to Prosperity." Chairman Ryan from Wisconsin, the architect of this wrongheaded proposal, recently spoke of trying to help those living in poverty with this budget. Unfortunately, the budget proposal does the complete opposite. It slashes education, training, nutrition and health care, weakening both protections for people in need and the help that can lead to employment and a more secure future.
Although the economy is starting to recover, people in Florida are still struggling. Unemployment here peaked at 11.4 percent in January 2010 and still remains unacceptably high at 9.6 percent today. If you count the number of people who have given up looking for work or can’t get as many hours as they want, the rate rises to 18.2%. Almost 1 in 7 Florida residents and almost 1 in 5 children are living in poverty.  We need to see budget solutions that respond to our needs. We need to invest in jobs for unemployed workers, protect low-income people in our communities, and raise fair revenues instead of balancing the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable. Our recent report published with the Coalition on Human Needs outlines some of the choices our Members of Congress are facing in Washington.

The report also shows that if the automatic federal spending cuts mandated by the deficit reduction law go into effect next January, our future prosperity may be damaged because young children and students won’t get the education they need. In 2013 alone Florida will lose $24.5 million for Head Start, more than $9.4 million for early care and education, $58.3 million for K-12 education and $49.2 million less for special education. WIC programs, providing nutrition for pregnant women and children throughout the state, will be cut by nearly $28.6 million next year. Dozens of programs will be reduced by millions of dollars in Florida alone. Under the budget plan we will see further cuts every year that follows. We need these programs, especially during this difficult economic time.
The automatic cuts will be damaging enough, but if the House-passed budget goes into effect, the harm will be much worse. Starting in 2014, the cuts to all the programs mentioned above, and many others that support human needs, will be significantly deeper. In addition, Ryan’s budget targets vital programs such as Medicaid and food stamps that were exempt from the automatic cuts slated to start next January. Florida would see 3.24 million people lose their food stamps - and that’s just one program.  
Both the House budget and the upcoming automatic cuts rely solely on cuts in services we need; they do not raise revenue from millionaires and corporations who can afford to contribute to our economic recovery.  If millionaires paid 30 percent of their income in federal taxes, the revenue gained would replace many of the proposed damaging cuts to food stamps and education, with money left over to reduce the deficit.  Investing in our future is a far better solution than continuing tax cuts we cannot afford to people who don’t need them.

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