Friday, March 11, 2011

Budget cuts and low-income backs

State, local lobbyists push to save programs from budget ax

By Kevin Bogardus and Keith Laing - 03/08/11 06:35 AM ET

State and local government officials are flooding Washington to lobby against spending cuts that they say fall disproportionately on domestic programs.

In interviews with The Hill, lobbyists for state and local governments said they understand that the ballooning federal deficit is likely to reduce federal support for roadwork, law enforcement and affordable housing.

But they argue that the sacrifice needed to reduce the deficit should be shared across the board — including by Medicaid, Medicare and defense programs — and not just fall on domestic programs.

“You can’t really solve the deficit by just cutting discretionary, non-military spending. It is such a small part of the budget,” Larry Naake, executive director of the National Association of Counties (NACo), told The Hill. “You end up destroying programs that help a lot of people at the local level.”

The county officials’ group is meeting in Washington this week for its annual legislative conference. Close to 1,600 NACo members will be in town, and many are expected to lobby their home-state delegations about the budget cuts.

The group is concerned about the funding cuts in President Obama’s 2012 budget request and objects to the cuts passed by the House in February for the remainder of fiscal 2011.

Nevertheless, Naake said NACo could support freezing domestic spending at fiscal 2010 levels.

“Once the [continuing resolution] is finished, we will have to start on the proposed budget next year. But it’s not as drastic as anything the House is proposing,” Naake said. “Share the pain across the board, not just with domestic programs.”

One of the biggest priorities of county officials will be protecting funding for Community Development Block Grants (CDBGs). NACo members are being encouraged to wear “Save CDBG” buttons on their suit lapels as they make the rounds on Capitol Hill.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development runs the grant program, which helps local government officials fund affordable housing and anti-poverty programs as well as infrastructure development.

Under the House Republican continuing resolution, the grant program would be reduced from about $4 billion to $1.5 billion. Other programs that face funding reductions under the legislation are the federal transit program, which would go from $10.7 billion to $10.2 billion; the high-speed rail initiative, which would see its current $3.7 billion in funding wiped out; and community health center grants, which would be reduced by $1 billion.

Naake said the budget cuts would only lead to more unemployment during the tough economic times.

To read entire report click here.

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