Lois Capps

Federal Budget is a Reflection of our Priorities - March 19, 2003

Lois Capps
March 19, 2003— U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC
Congressional floor speech
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I rise in strong opposition to the resolution before us.

The federal budget reflects our priorities. It demonstrates our values, our commitments to those less fortunate in our society, and our ideas for building a better America for our children and grandchildren.

The Republican budget resolution before us today makes a mockery of those ideals. It would not spur economic growth, it would underfund this country's critical challenges and it would lead to chronic deficits for the foreseeable future.

First, the resolution embraces the Administration's irresponsible tax cut package that will not encourage economic growth and that the country simply cannot afford. These tax cuts are not targeted to spur the economy right now. In fact, the largest component—the elimination of taxes on dividends—will go to the most well off in our society whiles it bleeds money from state coffers and cripples the market for bonds that support investments in low income housing and other critical needs. The so-called savings incentives are mostly efforts that will let wealthier families shelter income from taxation and will not encourage further savings. These provisions are ill-considered and unfair to the vast majority of working American families and should be rejected.

Mr. Chairman, I say this as someone who has often voted for tax cuts, including the last tax bill. I believed then and I believe now that there were many excellent provisions in that measure. But we were also in a very different time. The $5 trillion projected surpluses has evaporated—a victim of the continuing sluggishness of the economy and this Administration's refusal to change its failed economic policies. We should not proceed with more tax cuts while we face chronic deficits and critical, unmet domestic and international challenges.

Second, the Republican resolution does not provide adequate funding for a variety of critical needs, not the least of which are our homeland security efforts, particularly first responders. The resolution also provides inadequate funding for a prescription drug benefit for seniors and proposes forcing seniors into private plans to get any real benefit. It fails to live up to President Bush's own promise to provide federal support to help improve troubled schools and cuts back on everything from afterschool programs to rural education. It proposes cuts in a variety of environmental protection efforts, like the brownfields program, and measures to insure all drinking water is safe and that it is available in small and rural communities. It even proposes $15 Billion in cuts to veteran's health programs.

Third, despite woefully underfunding these efforts, because of the size of the tax cut the resolution forecasts huge deficits. The most recent Congressional Budget Office figures have put the expected deficit for this year, FY2003, at $246 billion. If the President gets his new tax cuts that figure would rise to $338 billion in FY2004 and remain in deficit until 2013. The budget resolution before us assumes many of the same policies as the Administration and ends with much the same result: unmet needs and huge budget deficits for the foreseeable future.

In addition, the resolution before us bases much of its own deficit reduction efforts on cutting popular programs that even members of the Republican party have rejected in the past and will certainly do so again this year. Given that these cuts will almost certainly not take place, the deficits reduction targets in the Republican resolution will not be met.

I believe we can and must do a better job.

Today I will be supporting the substitute to be offered by Mr. Spratt, on behalf of the Budget Committee's Democratic members.

This substitute will call for targeted, affordable tax cuts that will stimulate our sluggish economy and help create jobs. It will provide an affordable prescription drug benefit for all seniors who want one, regardless of where they live. It will fund education reforms called for in the President's signature No Child Left Behind Act. It will provide funding for veteran's health benefits and help for states suffering under high Medicaid bills. It will ensure that we fund the programs that help protect our environment and it will not call for drilling in pristine areas of Alaska. And it will bring our balance back to budget by the end of this decade.

The Spratt substitute represents a stark choice for all members of the House. It rejects the irresponsible path of never-ending deficits called for in the Republican plan. It meets the commitments we have to some of the most vulnerable members of our society. It fairly represents the values and priorities of the greatest and richest country in the world.

I urge my colleagues to support the Democratic Spratt substitute.