Budget Blog

Democrats are committed to protecting and strengthening Medicare for seniors today and in the future—but by relying premium support payments that would cover less and less care over time, the House Republican Budget would turn Medicare into a voucher program, threaten the fundamental Medicare guarantee and shift costs to beneficiaries.

As AARP noted, the House Budget “fails to address the high costs of health care and instead shifts costs onto seniors and future retirees…Removing the Medicare guarantee of affordable health coverage for older Americans by implementing a premium support system and asking seniors and future retirees to pay more is not the right direction.”
Today, the Senate passed the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA), which was led by the Budget Committee’s Government Performance Task Force. This legislation, sponsored by Task Force Chairman Senator Warner (D-VA), is based on the simple idea that in order to ensure that every dollar the federal government spends is spent in the best possible way, there needs to be a transparent and accountable system for tracking it.

Unfortunately, too often, data is incomplete, inconsistent, and difficult to access or analyze. Different agencies may report identical spending in different ways or different spending with identical terms. Individuals, groups, and businesses that try to comply with financial reporting requirements may face daunting challenges as different agencies ask for the same information in their own formats and along different time frames.

For the past few years, Congress has been lurching from budget crisis to budget crisis. Budget uncertainty, on top of spending cuts, has left some serious deficits in United States infrastructure. The result has been congested highways, bridges in disrepair, and roads that have deteriorated.

Instead of investing in the nation’s infrastructure, the Republican budget that passed the House on Thursday would slash critical investments for roads, bridges, and rail, and it would further contribute to the infrastructure deficit.

If enacted, the Republican budget would cut funding for transportation projects next year by $51 billion. Cutting investments in transportation programs would have serious implications for infrastructure projects to build and repair bridges and ease congestion on highways and roads. It would also cost jobs. An estimated 186,000 heavy construction and related jobs would be lost next year under the Republican budget, according to the Center for American Progress.

Many transportation programs are supported by the Highway Trust Fund, which needs additional revenue to support investments in the nation’s infrastructure in the coming years.  But instead of offering a solution to this problem, the Ryan budget proposes to slash a total of $167.5 billion from federal transportation programs over the next decade if no additional revenue is identified.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) said the “…Ryan’s budget will not provide an appropriate level of investment necessary to build and maintain the nation’s 21st century transportation system.”

The Republican budget proposes eliminating operating subsidies for Amtrak, a nationwide passenger rail service. It would also reduce funding for the Essential Air Service, which supports commercial air service to small and rural communities. Both of these cuts could pose negative consequences for travelers in rural areas across the country.   

During Chairman Patty Murray’s (D-WA) questions in the April 8th hearing entitled “Supporting Broad-Based Economic Growth and Fiscal Responsibility Through a Fairer Tax Code,” expert witnesses explained how policies included in the 21st Century Worker Tax Cut Act would support work and help workers and families keep more of what they earn.

Complementing critical reforms like raising the minimum wage, the 21st Century Worker Tax Cut Act would update the tax code to provide targeted tax cuts designed for today’s workforce. The bill builds on work incentives both Republicans and Democrats agree have been effective, and it is paid for by closing wasteful and inefficient tax loopholes both parties have proposed eliminating.
The Republican budget that the House of Representatives will vote on Thursday seeks to balance the budget in 10 years. To reach the goal, the Republican proposal would cut spending by $5 trillion over the next decade. Nearly 70 percent of cuts in the Republican budget would come from programs that help low-income families, according to analysis from the Center on the Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

These cuts would come from programs designed to prevent families from falling into deep poverty, hunger and homelessness. It also cuts funding for Pell grants that give students from low-income backgrounds the opportunity to go to college.

At today’s Senate Budget Committee hearing, Senator Murray described the House Republican approach to tax reform, explaining that House Ways and Means Chairman Camp (R-MI) proposes putting every dollar of savings back into lower tax rates, primarily for those at the top—without investing a penny in boosting our economy or tackling our budget challenges.

Senator Murray noted that the House Republican Budget being debated this week goes a step further, by lowering the top tax rate so much that, according to an independent study of a similar proposal, middle income families would end up paying higher taxes.

Excerpts of Senator Murray’s remarks are below, and the full text is available here

“…it’s very clear that tax reform that doesn’t ask the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share is simply fiscally irresponsible.

And every bipartisan group that has examined our budget situation has reached the same conclusion.

Now, I know that many of my Republican colleagues prefer a different approach.

Chairman Camp’s recent tax reform proposal would put every dollar of savings back into lower rates, primarily for corporations and those at the top of the income scale, and would protect the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations from paying their fair share toward reducing our deficit and boosting the economy.

The House Republican Budget being debated this week would do all of this as well—but it goes a step further.

Their budget would push the top tax rate down to 25 percent, which means middle class families would have to pick up the tab for new tax cuts for the rich.

Giving tax breaks to millionaires while doing nothing to help working families keep more of their hard earned income is not only wrong-headed in terms of our budget, it’s also deeply unfair to families across the country who are up against a decades-long trend of rising costs and stagnant wages.

One of the most important parts of responsible budgeting is looking ahead to the future and responding appropriately to changing circumstances. And in order to do that successfully, policymakers must rely on clear and consistent budget projections and cost estimates that are as fair and as accurate as possible. Without such information, it would become impossible to make smart fiscal choices. Unfortunately, the House of Representatives this week is considering three separate bills that, together, would significantly undermine all four key characteristics of useful budget numbers, resulting in projections and estimates that are less fair, less accurate, inconsistent and unclear. Enacting this package of legislation would make it more difficult to implement responsible policies that adequately address all of our fiscal and economic challenges.
Democrats are focused on finding ways to encourage growth and expand opportunity for workers and families. The House Republican Budget for fiscal year 2015 would take a very different approach. Instead of working with Democrats to build on the bipartisan foundation set in the two-year budget agreement, the House Republican Budget would:

Take away the Medicare guarantee and shift the cost of health care onto seniors;

Make drastic cuts to investments in education, medical research, and transportation that create middle class jobs and long-term, broad-based growth;

And once again protect the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations from paying a penny more toward their fair share.

Following the release of the House Budget last week, a number of groups representing communities across the country weighed in on the drastic cuts in the proposal to programs and investments that are vital to families, seniors, workers, and the economy.  Here is some of what just a few of those groups had to say:

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:Some 69 percent of the cuts in House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s new budget would come from programs that serve people of limited means, our forthcoming report finds.  These disproportionate cuts — which likely account for at least $3.3 trillion of the budget’s $4.8 trillion in non-defense cuts over the next decade — contrast sharply with the budget’s rhetoric about helping the poor and promoting opportunity.”

Center for American Progress: “While the House Republican’s budget plan claims to strengthen the safety net, the reality is it slashes health care, education, child care, and other job supports for struggling families in order to pay for tax cuts for the very wealthy.”

Young Invincibles: “This budget proposal would eliminate some of the most significant protections for young people. In an economy where many young adults are desperate for economic stability, this budget builds barriers between young adults and their ability to get back to work, pay for college, and afford health care.”

AARP: “Chairman Ryan’s proposed budget fails to address the high costs of health care and instead shifts costs onto seniors and future retirees. Repealing the benefits of the Affordable Care Act ignores the progress we’ve made to improve access to health care and protect against discrimination based on age, gender or medical history. Removing the Medicare guarantee of affordable health coverage for older Americans by implementing a premium support system and asking seniors and future retirees to pay more is not the right direction.”

Coalition for Health Funding: “...but our nation’s soldiers, like all Americans, rely on public health programs here on American soil. These programs discover cures for disease and keep our food and water safe. They provide needed mental health services to our returning wounded, and they help families rebuild their lives after natural disasters. Continued cuts to public health will do Americans more harm than good.”

National Education Association: “Americans are looking to Washington to stand up for them, to create opportunities for economic prosperity, and ensure a brighter future for the next generation. Ryan’s budget, unfortunately, falls far short. He continues to balance the budget on the backs of the nation’s most vulnerable—low- and moderate-income Americans, children, students, and seniors—while failing to demand corporations and the rich to pay their fair share. In short, his budget again makes a mockery of shared sacrifice.”

Institute For College Access and Success: “Despite bipartisan concern about rising college costs and student debt, the House Budget Committee’s fiscal year 2015 budget slashes funding for Pell Grants, forcing millions of Pell Grant recipients to borrow more, while simultaneously increasing the cost of their loans”