Senator Sanders Proposes National Priorities Act

Washington D.C. -- Citing spiraling income disparity in America, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today introduced legislation to expand opportunities for the middle-class, lower the poverty rate and keep commitments to veterans, senior citizens, children's health care and other national priorities by repealing tax breaks for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans while expanding tax relief for working families.

Washington D.C. -- Citing spiraling income disparity in America, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today introduced legislation to expand opportunities for the middle-class, lower the poverty rate and keep commitments to veterans, senior citizens, children's health care and other national priorities by repealing tax breaks for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans while expanding tax relief for working families. Sanders' legislation, The National Priorities Act of 2007, also would redirect $60 billion in the Pentagon budget by ending outdated Cold War-era weapons programs and eliminating waste, fraud and abuse. The Pentagon provision would prohibit achieving any of the savings by shortchanging basic needs of military personnel, including pay raises and health care. "The Senate must pass a budget that will expand the shrinking middle class, reduce the enormous gap between the rich and the poor, keep our promises to our nation's veterans, reduce our record-breaking national debt and lower the poverty rate," Sanders said in a Senate floor speech. "The best way to accomplish these goals is to repeal the president's tax breaks for the wealthiest 1 percent, eliminate waste, fraud and abuse at the Pentagon and use this revenue for the many unmet needs of this country." A member of the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders also proposed to devote a portion of the restored revenue - $30 billion - to reduce the federal deficit. A budget, Sanders told colleagues, "is more than just a long list of numbers, it is a statement of our values and priorities. It is about taking a hard look at the needs of our people and prioritizing the budget in an intelligent and rational way." The legislation detailed troubling economic trends in the United States, including the highest rate of poverty among 17 major countries in North America and Europe. The 36.9 million Americans living in poverty, the senator noted, rose by 5.4 million since President Bush took office. Sanders also cited the rising number of uninsured and homeless, shameful inattention to dental care for children in a nation where tooth decay has become the most chronic childhood disease, shortfalls in funding for veterans, and inadequate support for students from middle-class families confronted by skyrocketing college costs. While the middle class is shrinking and poverty is increasing, Sanders added, the wealthiest 1 percent at the very top of the economic ladder has not had it so good since the 1920s. According to Forbes magazine, the collective net worth of the richest 400 Americans increased by $120 billion last year to $1.25 trillion. "Sadly," Sanders said, "the United States today has the most unfair distribution of wealth and income of any major country, and the gap between the very wealthy and everyone else is growing wider." The cost of preserving Bush's tax cuts for the very richest in 2008 alone would total $70 billion -- more than will be spent on homeland security, education, or veterans affairs. At the same time he would repeal tax cuts for the top 1 percent, Sanders would reduce taxes by $400 to $1,134 a year for 10 million American workers and families with children by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit. The priority programs authorized by the legislation would include:

  • $15 billion for children's health plans
  • $575 million for Community Health Centers
  • $140 million for the expansion of dental clinics in rural and under-served areas
  • $2.2 billion for child care
  • $14.9 billion for special education
  • $4 billion for veterans' health care
  • $7.2 billion for an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit
  • $16.2 billion to increase the maximum Pell Grant for college students
  • $27 billion for energy efficiency and conservation programs
  • $5 billion for housing
Complete details of The National Priorities Act of 2007 along with the full text of Sanders' floor statement and a fact sheet are available online at www.sanders.senate.gov .To read the Senators floor statement click here.To read the National Priorities Fact Sheet click here.Click here for a copy of the bill.To hear the full floor speech click here.