Senate Bill to Avoid Automatic Spending Cuts Takes Right Approach
The U.S. Senate is expected to vote today on a plan to replace the automatic spending cuts slated for March 1 – known as "the sequester" – with a balanced package of new revenue and spending reductions.
The plan would raise new revenue from wealthy households that pay a relatively low tax rate and by closing loopholes on certain corporations. It would also include modest cuts to services that protect low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities.
As a coalition of organizations working to preserve critical public investments, we urge the Senate to take this balanced approach, which is the right solution for Pennsylvania's working families, children and seniors.
"Our economic recovery is still fragile in Pennsylvania," said Better Choices for PA coalition co-chair Joseph Bard. "We need to reinvest in our schools and communities and rebuild our infrastructure. Another round of cuts would take us in the wrong direction."
This Senate plan builds on the bipartisan approach taken in December, in which some of the cost of canceling the sequestration cuts for two months was offset with increased revenue.
There is agreement from Senators on both sides of the aisle that sequestration is bad policy. It will hurt the still-struggling economy and undermine our ability to invest in critical priorities like education, food safety, and medical research. According to a White House fact sheet, if sequestration were to take effect this year, the impact in Pennsylvania would be substantial:
- 29,000 fewer public school students would be served through services funded by Title I while 26,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed.
- Head Start and Early Head Start would be eliminated for 2,300 children, and 1,800 children would lose access to quality child care.
- State and local governments would lose $5.7 million in environmental funding for clean air and water and $509,000 in grants for law enforcement and public safety.
- Domestic violence programs would serve 1,000 fewer victims.
- Seniors would lose $849,000 in nutrition assistance.
Replacing one set of harmful spending cuts with another, as the House of Representatives proposes, would only make matters worse. The House has twice voted to replace the automatic spending cuts with another set of irresponsible cuts, including cuts to basic food assistance and health care.
"This Senate plan is a far more responsible choice," said Better Choices for PA coalition co-chair Christie Balka. "We call on Senators Casey and Toomey to support a balanced approach to future deficit reduction efforts that includes additional revenues, protects vulnerable Americans, and ensures that we can continue to invest in the building blocks of our economy."
Joe Bard is executive director of the Pennsylvania Association for Rural and Small Schools. Christie Balka is director of child care and budget policy for Public Citizens for Children and Youth. Both organizations are members of the Better Choices coalition.