Legislation passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives slashes $61 billion from the federal budget, creating havoc for many Vermont families. The Senate blocked the House budget earlier this month.
Sen. Bernie Sanders voted against the House budget because it made devastating cuts to Head Start, Pell grants, community health centers, LIHEAP, the Social Security Administration and many other programs that are vitally important to millions of middle-class families.
“The Republicans want to move toward a balanced budget by slashing programs for working families at exactly the same time as they want more tax breaks for the rich. I find it ironic that, at a time when poverty is increasing because of the recession, the Republicans want to cut programs for low income children, the sick and the elderly," Bernie said. "At the same time, while the rich are getting richer, they want more tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. Clearly, any serious deficit reduction proposal must include shared sacrifice. The wealthiest people in this country must be asked to pay a little more in taxes to help this country move toward a balanced budget. It cannot just be the poor and working families who are asked to sacrifice.”
The Republican House budget would slash Head Start by 20 percent, or $1.1 billion, forcing 218,000 children from the education and nutrition program and causing 55,000 layoffs nationally. In Vermont, those cuts mean that more than 300 children would be denied access to Head Start’s education and nutrition programs.
Community health centers and community support programs would be decimated both in Vermont and throughout the country. The Republican House budget slashes $1.3 billion in funding for community health centers denying primary health care to 11 million patients. In Vermont, more than 37,000 patients would lose access to care, according to estimates from the Vermont Office of Economic Opportunity and the state’s five community action agencies.
As a result of $5.7 billion in proposed cuts to Pell Grants, tuition assistance would fall an average of 17 percent, reducing or eliminating Pell Grants for 9.4 million low-income college students across the country. In Vermont, students obtaining Pell Grants would lose $700 in aid, causing further hardship for working families struggling to pay the bills. Roughly 13,000 low-income Vermont college students would lose some or all of their Pell Grants because of those cuts, according to community action agency estimates. And more than one thousand Vermont children would lose or have after-school programs reduced.
The cuts included in the Republican House budget would further harm the economy which continues to have trouble recovering from the recession which began more than three years ago in December 2007. Overall, the legislation passed by the Republican House is estimated to cause 700,000 job losses nationally – and 1,600 lost jobs in Vermont.
Further, the House budget slashes the Community Services Block Grant program by $405 million which could reduce or eliminating emergency food, housing and heating assistance to 20 million seniors, families with children and the disabled. "Community Action Programs in Vermont have done a very effective job in providing food to hungry families with children, heating assistance to senior citizens on fixed incomes, and jobs to Vermonters who are still struggling through the worst economic crisis since the 1930s," Bernie said.
Thousands of Vermonters would be harmed by these proposed cuts. Southeastern Vermont Community Action’s executive director told the Brattleboro Reformer roughly 6,500 vulnerable low-income Vermonters that receive housing, fuel assistance and food would be affected in his region, alone.
On Wednesday, Bernie also voted against a Democratic budget proposal because it failed to address the $14 trillion national debt and the $1.6 trillion deficit in a fair and responsible way.
“I voted against the Democratic proposal because, if the Democrats are serious about deficit reduction they have to raise revenue along with spending cuts. As part of an Emergency Deficit Reduction Fund, I will be introducing legislation that calls for a 5.4 percent surtax on millionaires as well as eliminating tax breaks for big oil companies,” he said.
“At a time when the gap between the very, very wealthy and everyone else is growing wider, will we try to balance the budget on the backs of the poor, the elderly, the sick, and the children? That is the question that we have to address right now,” Bernie said. “In the midst of a major a recession, it is morally wrong—and economically bad policy—to balance the budget on the backs of people who are already hurting.”