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House budget plan guts safety net programs

• Aug 11, 2017 at 2:57 PM

From food aid to Medicaid to Pell Grants, the Republican budget plan making its way through the U.S. House of Representatives takes aim at public services that help millions of Ohioans, according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The House budget plan aims to balance the budget in 10 years while cutting taxes for the wealthy and corporations, increasing defense spending, and essentially holding Social Security harmless. As a result, many programs, especially those that serve people and families of low and modest income, are hit hard.

Over the next 10 years, House Republicans propose cutting $2.9 trillion from federal services that benefit people of low- and moderate-income. If enacted, the cuts would grow over time until, in 2027, 36 percent of the resources for low- and moderate-income programs would be eliminated. This is far more than the cuts in other non-defense programs, which would be cut by 14 percent that year.

If the House budget resolution is passed as written, Congress would start using a fast-track, filibuster-proof process called “reconciliation” — the same process used on the recently-failed Republican health care bills – to advance some of the federal budget cuts and tax cuts.

The House Budget Committee approved the proposal last month. The full House is expected to vote on the budget resolution in September, which is also when the Senate is expected to draft its budget resolution.

A more balanced approach is needed. Lawmakers should include new revenues by reducing tax expenditures that favor the top fifth of earners. And they should eliminate the use of the reconciliation process to fast-track entitlement cuts and revenue-losing tax cuts through Congress this year.

Federal dollars are especially crucial in Ohio. The ways that the House Republican budget plan could harm Ohio include:

• Cutting Medicaid, which provides health care to people with disabilities, seniors and children. The budget includes the same Medicaid cuts and restructuring we saw in the widely-opposed efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and makes further cuts to the program. The Congressional Budget Office estimated the House-passed bill to repeal the ACA would cost 23 million people their health coverage by 2026. The legislation’s rapid elimination of the Medicaid expansion would knock more than 700,000 Ohioans off health insurance immediately, while the restructuring of Medicaid into a capped grant would have jeopardized coverage for the remaining 2.3 million Ohio enrollees.

• Cutting funding for federal food aid — Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) — by $150 billion between 2018 and 2027, compared to current program structure and levels. Two-thirds of SNAP recipients in Ohio are children, elderly or adults with disabilities. In 2015, 42 percent of recipients were children.

• Cutting the Pell Grant program by $75 billion over the 10-year time horizon of the House budget resolution. Pell grants helped 221,000 students attend Ohio colleges during the 2015-16 school year and pumped $800 million into the colleges and universities they attended.

• Limiting “community eligibility” for primary and secondary schools, an option that allows high-poverty schools to provide meals at no charge to all students and was used by 921 Ohio schools serving 364,000 students in 2016-17.

• Repealing the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), which helps states provide services to their most vulnerable populations. Ohio’s SSBG dollars provided $13 million for adult protective services and $34 million for child protective services in 2016 and 2017. Federal dollars are especially crucial in Ohio, since state-level funding for these services is particularly inadequate.

The budget resolution also includes a section on potential tax priorities. The priorities favor high-income households and corporations, similar to the House GOP’s 2016 “Better Way” tax plan. Millionaires would get the lion’s share - an estimated $2.6 trillion — of the “Better Way’s” $3.1 trillion in tax cuts over 10 years. This approach is consistent with the Trump tax plan as well, which provides tremendous tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans.

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