Policy Priorities

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BUDGET WATCH: THIS WEEK...

March 18, 2011

Congress Passes Another Temporary Funding Extension, Public Strongly Opposes Cutting Funding for Children

This week … The House and Senate have passed another temporary continuing resolution (CR) that will fund the government for the next three weeks (March 18th to April 8th) while cutting $6 billion in spending. Similar to the short-term CR passed earlier this month, the cuts come primarily from eliminating earmarks and making reductions in funding that were supported by President Obama in his annual budget request. This is the sixth temporary spending measure since the beginning of fiscal year 2011. Without approval of a CR or a budget for the remainder of the fiscal year, the federal government would shut down.

Some members of both parties have indicated that their patience for temporary funding measures has worn thin, and pressure is growing to finish the job without another temporary funding extension. However, as of now, bipartisan agreement on long-term spending remains elusive with several large outstanding issues such as the magnitude and source of cuts, and policy riders about funding for health reform and Planned Parenthood yet to be resolved. Negotiations could become more complicated as the nation nears the date (possibly as soon as mid-April) when Congress must act to raise the debt limit, giving some legislators an opportunity to extract disproportionate concessions in exchange for their budget votes.

During the next round of negotiations, Congress must reject the penny-and-pound foolish cuts proposed in H.R. 1, passed by the House in February and later rejected by the Senate, where $61 billion in cuts deny Head Start to 218,000 children, prevent 11 million people from getting the health care they need from Community Health Centers, and deny or reduce Pell grants for 9.4 million low income college student.

It’s important to remember an obvious but often forgotten fact; children did not cause the deficits. Investment in early childhood development and education today will pay-off with a better educated workforce and more taxpayers tomorrow. Even the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, agrees and says this is sound fiscal policy in this global economy.

And a number of recent polls indicate that the American public overwhelmingly agrees as well:

  • In early March, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that more than half find it unacceptable to reduce the deficit by making cuts to Head Start, pre-Kindergarten, student loan subsidies, Medicaid, and K-12 education, and overwhelmingly favor phasing out tax cuts for those making over $250,000/year.
  • A March 7th Harris poll found that both Democrats and Republicans overwhelmingly support aid to public schools and Medicaid. The poll examined trends overtime and found in a number of areas, including education, public support for public programs has grown by 10 percent since 2005.
  • A Bloomberg poll, released on March 9th, found the majority (62 percent) felt that cutting education programs would be fairly small or make no difference to the savings of the deficit and also agreed that repealing tax cuts for households earning more than $250,000/year would result in very large or fairly large savings to the federal deficit.

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