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Entries in Budget Cuts (28)

Friday
Mar042011

In Miami, Obama Touts Job Numbers, Defends Education Investments

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(MIAMI) -- President Obama Friday touted the unemployment rate falling slightly to 8.9 percent -- calling it progress -- and said that momentum has to be kept up to continue the economic recovery.

“This morning we learned that the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in nearly two years,” Obama said from Miami Central Senior High School, noting that 222,000 jobs in the private sector were added, “And that's progress.  But we need to keep building on that momentum.”

The president traveled to Florida Friday to formally launch what he says the White House is calling “Education Month” -- a series of events the president will hold over the next month to speak about investments in education.  In a display of bipartisanship, the president was joined by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for the Miami event.

Miami Central Senior High School was awarded $785,000 in School Improvement Grant funds from the Department of Education. The school was almost shut down a few years ago with underperforming students, hallways littered with garbage and unsafe conditions for students.

But over the past five years the school has turned itself around -- performance skyrocketing by more than 60 percent in math, 40 percent in writing, and graduation rates growing from 36 percent to 63 percent.

The president said that amid tough conversations about spending, Washington, D.C.’s job is not just to cut.

“Even as we find ways to cut spending, what we can't do is cut back on investments like education, that will help us create jobs and grow our economy.”

The setting benefited the president’s message on investments where needed, even amid cost cutting on Capitol Hill, giving him the opportunity to personify the message -- speaking directly to the student audience in the crowd.

“We can't sacrifice your future,” Obama said. “We can’t let that happen. Our kids deserve better. Our country deserves better."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Thursday
Feb242011

U.S. Mayors Slam Budget Cuts

Photo Courtesy - Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- More than two dozen U.S. mayors voiced outrage over the proposed budged cuts outlined in the House of Representatives' 2011 continuing resolution at a press conference  in Washington Thursday. 

The mayors said they are most concerned with the proposed 62.5 percent cut to the Community Development Block Grant. The grant, known as CDBG, provides billions of dollars to cities -- mostly with little federal oversight -- for affordable housing, anti-poverty, and infrastructure development.

"These drastic cuts are unacceptable to the mayors of America, and today as nonpartisan mayors we have raised our voices," said Burnsville, Minnesota Mayor Elizabeth Kautz. "There are other programs that are critical to cities that are also on the cut list, but we take great exception to the Community Development Block Grant," Kautz added.  

The mayors vowed to do everything they can to educate members of Congress about how the federal dollars help residents of their communities.  Mostly Democrats, the assembled group called House Republicans' proposed cuts "an attack" on Americans. 

"This is literally un-American," Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said.

"H.R.1. is un-American. It attacks senior citizens. It attacks children. It attacks working people.  It stops jobs and economic development in cities all across the United States of America," he said. 

Arguing that CDBG funds help leverage additional private sector money to create jobs, the mayor of Newton, Massachusetts, Setti Warren, described CDBG as "the lifeblood of citizens and towns." 

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have to engage our members in the House, our members in the Senate, governors, private sector, public sector, not only to say this is irresponsible and can’t stand, but to turn it around," he said.

Although they did not lay out their specific strategy to fight the cuts, the mayors said their hope rests in the Democratic-controlled Senate. The mayors also sidestepped a question about whether they'd like to see a government shutdown over House Republicans' deep cuts. 

But, one Republican mayor, without naming names, said elected officials in Washington just don't get it. 

"To me this is about hypocrisy. It is hypocritical for elected officials in Washington to say they value cities, they value the economy and they value jobs and then create a stimulus package and send it to the states where it never reach the cities," said Mick Cornett, the mayor of Oklahoma City. 

He added, "It’s a little bit lame for us to hear that they’ve got tough choices to make. Let me tell you, you be a mayor for a day and I’ll tell you about tough choices.  This is about priorities and the priorities need to be about the economy and if they start cutting the Community Development Block Grant then they have lost their priorities."

Asked if they are just as upset with President Obama's proposed cuts in his 2012 budget, the mayors said they only want to focus right now on the continuing resolution. 

This is just the second time since President Ford signed the Community Development Block Grant into law that the program has faced dramatic cuts or elimination.  In 2006, President George W. Bush sought to drastically cut the community branch of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  But the mayors said the cuts proposed in this year's H.R.1. would put their ability to create jobs and provide important services to the citizens at risk.  They called CDBG a program that gets results.

"This has been a program that all of us -- all of us -- can take you and put your hands right on the results of this programs. So we stand together on this," said Southfield, Michigan Mayor Brenda Lawrence.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb172011

As Protests Continue in Wisconsin, Obama Sides with Union Workers

Photo Courtesy - JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(MADISON, Wisc.) -- Thursday marked the third straight day of protests from people across the state of Wisconsin in opposition to a bill that could strip public sector employees of many of their collective bargaining rights. Teachers and union workers are vastly opposed to the proposal, which would also mandate increased contributions for their benefits. Tensions escalated to such a point on Thursday afternoon that 14 Democratic state lawmakers left the state in order to postpone action on the bill. They are staying at a hotel in Rockford, Illinois.

President Obama joined the fray of voices by saying, “Some of what I've heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you're just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain, generally seems like more of an assault on unions. And I think it's very important for us to understand that public employees, they're our neighbors, they're our friends,” in a Wednesday interview with WTMJ-TV.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday that while President Obama understands the needs and the challenges that governors face to deal with their own fiscal issues and the need to make tough budget decisions, “what he sees happening in Wisconsin, making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain, seems more like an assault on unions. “

“He doesn't see that as a good thing,” Carney said, adding that it is sometimes easy to paint public employees as “faceless bureaucrats,” but emphasized these people are teachers, nurses, policemen and firemen.

“The best way to deal with this is for people to address these problems by sitting down at the table to collaborate and work out a solution.”

The fracas all stems from the proposed budget of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. By projecting a $3.6 billion dollar deficit, he said cuts would have to be made.

Schools in 15 districts closed down on Thursday so that teachers could go and join other protesters, who had entirely filled the rotunda at the state capitol. Some classes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison were also cancelled as a result of the demonstrations.

As of Thursday evening, there was no word on a planned return date for the legislators who had fled the state.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb172011

Listen Up, Boehner Says: 'We're Going to Cut Spending'

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- In the face of an ever growing deficit, despite President Obama's pledge to halt spending for the next five years in his proposed budget, House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday that even if it meant job loss, spending was going to have to be pulled back.

“When we say we’re going to cut spending -- read my lips: we’re going to cut spending. Excessive government spending is hampering private sector job creation by spreading uncertainty, eroding confidence and discouraging private investment and it has to stop,” Boehner said.

The House of Representatives debated Thursday a continuous flow of amendments to the continuing resolution for 2011. Earlier this week, Boehner angered many House Democrats when he answered “so be it,” as he dismissed concern about potential job loss as a result of some cuts proposed in the CR.

On Thursday, he gave a postion less harsh than he had before, but insisting that no matter what, the result would be the same.

"I don’t want anyone to lose their job, whether they’re a federal employee or not, but come on, we’re broke!” Boehner exclaimed. “We’ve got to make tough decisions and the American people sent their representatives here to Washington to make tough decisions on their behalf. And we know that we can’t continue to…borrow 40 cents for every dollar the federal government spends," Boehner said.

As the House scurries to pass amendments to the spending plan, it appears unlikely that the Senate would pass them, and the president has even threatened to veto the bill if it reached his desk.

Because of that, Boehner said talk had to take place on severe spending cuts between Democrats and Republicans.

"Not only does the president’s budget destroy jobs by spending too much, borrowing too much and taxing too much, it also points out the touch choices including entitlement reform,” Boehner said. “We need to have an adult conversation on entitlements and the president needs to lead that discussion. He was elected to lead, not to sit on the sidelines.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb162011

Cost Cutting? Or War on Government Workers?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- When House Speaker John Boehner uttered "so be it" if federal government jobs are lost, Democrats pounced on his words. But the Ohio Republican's not-so-carefully crafted words are a sign of a bigger battle over government jobs being fought across the country.

As lawmakers figure out ways to trim the budget deficit, both federal and state worker jobs are coming under renewed scrutiny.

The House Republicans' continuing resolution that would fund the government for the remainder of the year, if it passes, calls for hefty cuts in federal agency budgets and would directly affect salaries and jobs.

Even President Obama's budget, released Monday, includes a two-year freeze on federal employee salaries, although they would still be eligible for pay raises under promotions. State workers across the United States are in a similar -- if not worse -- conundrum.

In a case that has perhaps triggered the most uproar, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is trying to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights. Some observers say it is a deliberate attempt to undermine unions.

Walker says though they may seem politically bold, the cuts he's proposing are modest and needed. Walker insisted that he offered to negotiate with unions but they didn't bite.

Elsewhere, California Gov. Jerry Brown has enacted a state hiring freeze.

A USA Today analysis in August found that federal workers' average salaries have grown to more than double their private-sector counterparts, and that they've been awarded better pay and benefit increases for nine consecutive years.

Some experts say those numbers should be taken with caution because federal government workers are likely to be more skilled and higher-educated than their private-sector counterparts.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb142011

Proposed Budget Cuts to Heating Program Draw Swift Backlash

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Amidst all the talk on Capitol Hill about how the White House’s proposed spending cuts don’t go far enough, it’s worth noting the real backlash that even some of the relatively minor proposed cuts have triggered.

One issue that appears to have really struck a nerve, especially with Democrats, is the White House proposal to cut by half the funds for a program that provides heating assistance to the poor.

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) currently enjoys $5.1 billion in funding, but under the new budget it would be cut to $2.5 billion.

It should come as no surprise that lawmakers from cold-weather states have wasted no time weighing in with their displeasure.

The Massachusetts delegation -- with Sens. John Kerry and Scott Brown, along with Reps. Ed Markey, Barney Frank, Richard Neal, John Olver, John Tierney, Jim McGovern, Michael Capuano, Stephen Lynch, Niki Tsongas, and William Keating -- on Monday wrote to congressional leaders asking them to keep funding for the program at its current levels.

“We all appreciate that difficult decisions have to be made this budget cycle to restore fiscal sanity and begin to tackle the debt,” they wrote. “However, this year Massachusetts, and many other parts of the country, have seen record breaking low temperatures and brutal storm conditions. LIHEAP ensures that families can heat their homes, that senior citizens aren't forced to choose between their next meal and staying warm, and helps those who live in the Northeast to cope with the winter despite record high home heating oil costs.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb042011

Rand Paul: Republicans 'Aren't Maybe Brave Enough' to Tackle Deficit

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., took aim at the newly-released House GOP budget, saying it falls far short of what needs to be done to deal with the federal deficit.

"It's really not going to touch the problem," Paul told ABC News in an exclusive interview.  "There's a disconnect between Republicans who want a balanced budget but aren't maybe yet brave enough to talk about the cuts to come."

The plan by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., released on Thursday, would cut non-security discretionary spending by $58 billion by the end of fiscal year 2011, which ends on Sept. 30.

In a far-ranging interview aboard the Capitol Subway, Paul embraced the label "true believer" and said staying true to the principles of the Tea Party movement is more important to him than being a Republican.  He also refused to rule out a future run for president and suggested it may be time to reduce U.S. force levels in Afghanistan.

Paul has proposed his own plan to cut spending by $500 billion this year.  Paul's plan would impose deep across-the-board spending cuts -- including a reduction of 83 percent from the Department of Education, six percent from the Department of Defense and the elimination all foreign aid.  He considers it just a start.

"I go to a tea party and you know what they say to me?  It's not enough.  It's not enough.  Where's the other trillion you need?" Paul said.

Paul defended his call to end all foreign aid -- including the $3 billion the U.S. gives to Israel every year.

"I'm not singling out Israel.  I support Israel.  I want to be known as a friend of Israel," Paul said, "but not with money you don't have.  We can't just borrow from our kids' future and give it to countries even if they are our friends."

Paul has come under fire from supporters of Israel, but said Israel has enough financial resources to fend for itself.

Regarding Afghanistan, Paul said it is up to the president to determine troop levels, but, "I personally think you can have a much smaller presence."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb042011

Lawmakers Urged Lobbyists to Push for Continued Funding

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As Congress prepares to make deep spending cuts, an army of lobbyists is gearing up to fight back.

In an e-mail obtained by ABC News, a top staffer for the key Senate Appropriations subcommittee called for a meeting of lobbyists and interest groups that would be affected by expected cuts to the Labor and Heath and Human Services budget.  The Jan. 24 meeting was attended by approximately 400 people, sources told ABC, and served as a "call to arms" for those determined to fight Republican budget cuts.

"One thing everyone should be able to agree on now is that a rising tide lifts all boats, and that a higher [Labor, Health & Human Services] allocation improves the chances for every stakeholder group to receive more funding," the committee staffer for Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, wrote in an e-mail inviting people to the meeting.

The meeting is in contrast to the rampant calls all over Capitol Hill to cut federal spending.  For instance, a recent proposal from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., called for an 83 percent cut in funding for the Department of Education.

If education is subjected to far greater cuts than defense, for example, then groups in that sector have cause for concern.  Cue the lobbying effort.

"Everyone who was there was desperately concerned and very appreciative of being in a room seeing so many people like them who are also concerned," said a source who attended the meeting.  "We obviously have to cut the budget deficit and address the debt problem, but are we going to do that on the backs of the poor, the unemployed, those without child care, et cetera?  That's the kind of thing that could halt the economic recovery in its tracks."

Another source familiar with the meeting said Democrats used the meeting as "an attack on House Republicans."

"They said these evil House Republicans are here and they're going to kill all these programs that support little kids, senior citizens, and health care," the source said.  "They're trying to instill the fear of God that Republicans are basically going to blow up all these programs, kill these programs, defund them."

"It seemed to me like they are trying to build momentum to push the Republicans back on their promises on funding levels and I think -- to their credit -- they were reaching out to a vast number of organizations to build a coalition of people who are willing to take action against whatever may come out of the House."

The funding fight looks set to take center stage in the coming weeks.  President Obama is planning to submit his budget proposal for fiscal year 2012 on Feb. 14. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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