Congress has a lot on its plate as it returns to work this week from its annual August vacation. The list of “must-pass” legislation includes raising the debt ceiling, reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program, making a down-payment on Hurricane Harvey relief and passing a bill to keep the federal government from shutting down.
One proposal that deserves to stay on the shelf, however, is the budget resolution approved in July along strict partisan lines by the House Budget Committee. This resolution – essentially a 10-year blueprint for federal spending – calls for deep cuts to programs that serve working families, children, the elderly and disabled people. It substantially increases defense spending and cuts taxes for the wealthiest people and corporations.
House and Senate leaders in Congress may try to use the same “fast track” procedure for the budget resolution that was tried earlier this year during the failed efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Instead of rushing an irresponsible budget plan through Congress, legislators should start over in a bipartisan fashion to craft a responsible budget that support working families and vulnerable Americans by protecting vital programs.
The budget plan proposes $1.3 trillion in cuts to “non-defense discretionary” programs over the next decade. This is the area of federal spending that includes job training and education, housing assistance, environmental protection and other key public services. By 2027, non-defense discretionary spending as a share of the economy would be at its lowest point since before the Great Depression.
With reduced federal funding for public services, the state would be left in the tenuous position of deciding whether to continue critical public programs including early childhood education centers, rental assistance, and domestic violence prevention efforts using already-limited state funds, or end those programs entirely.
The House budget plan also calls for $4.4 trillion in cuts to economic security programs that help Louisiana families afford basic necessities such as food and health care. For example, the budget resolution proposes a $150 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which amounts to 20 percent of the program, over the next decade. More than 404,000 Louisiana households rely on food assistance to make ends meet, half of which are families with children. Reductions to the program at such a magnitude will put nearly 4 in 10 children in the state at risk of going hungry.
The House budget plan also includes many of the same cuts to Medicaid and insurance subsidies that were part of earlier bills to repeal the Affordable Care Act. These cuts would result in hundreds of thousands of Louisianans losing health insurance coverage; massive cost-shifts from the federal government to Baton Rouge; higher health insurance premiums; and a destabilization of the individual health insurance marketplace. The budget plan would also make further cuts to Medicaid, on top of the cuts proposed as part of the health care repeal efforts.
While the budget resolution cannot spell out exactly how the Ways and Means Committee should go about crafting “tax reform” legislation, it does include guidelines and principles that are closely aligned with the Trump administration’s tax plan. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy reports that 55.6 percent of the Trump tax cuts in Louisiana would go to the richest 1 percent of taxpayers, who have an average income of more than $1.5 million annually. The poorest 60 percent of Louisiana taxpayers would receive just 6.5 percent of the total tax cuts in the state.
Much like the failed health care legislation, the House budget resolution is a politically charged proposal that would put low and middle-income families at risk while giving major tax breaks to the wealthy. It would result in greatly reduced federal funding to Louisiana, causing serious problems for the state budget and severely harming low and middle-income residents of the state. Our Louisiana House delegation should focus on the what’s in the best interest of our state rather than what’s best for party politics and vote no on this bad proposal.