Help for Children and Seniors

Senator Bernie Sanders on Thursday told colleagues on the Senate Budget Committee that he will ask the full Senate to repeal special tax breaks for households with incomes over $1 million a year. Instead of preserving the tax cuts for the wealthiest 0.3 percent of Americans, Sanders said he would redirect revenue to programs for children, seniors and others and also to stanch the flow of red ink in President Bush's budget. "At a time when the United States has the highest childhood poverty rate

Senator Bernie Sanders on Thursday told colleagues on the Senate Budget Committee that he will ask the full Senate to repeal special tax breaks for households with incomes over $1 million a year. Instead of preserving the tax cuts for the wealthiest 0.3 percent of Americans, Sanders said he would redirect revenue to programs for children, seniors and others and also to stanch the flow of red ink in President Bush's budget. "At a time when the United States has the highest childhood poverty rate of any major nation; and when seniors are going cold because of inadequate home heating help, we have a moral responsibility to put the needs of our kids and most vulnerable citizens ahead of millionaires and billionaires," Sanders said.

Households with earnings of more than $1 million are projected to receive $51 billion next year thanks to Bush-backed tax breaks enacted in 2001 and 2003. "My amendment would use $41 billion to increase funding for special education; Head Start; child care; school construction; home heating assistance, and nutrition programs," Sanders said. Another $10 billion would go for deficit reduction.

Sanders would redirect revenue from the millionaires tax breaks to boost funding by:

· $15 billion for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. For three decades, the federal government has reneged on its promise to fund 40 percent of the costs of special education for 7 million children. Instead, federal payments cover only 17 percent of the costs, shifting the burden to local property taxpayers.

· $7 billion to double funding for Head Start. The extremely effective program has been forced to cope with budget cuts that limit enrollment to fewer than half of all eligible children.

· $2.2 billion for the Child Care Development Block Grant. Today, only about one in seven eligible children receive assistance; 250,000 fewer than in 2000. The president's budget would slash an additional 200,000 children.

· $3.8 billion for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Woman, Infants, and Children.

· $5 billion for food stamps.

· $3 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Home heating oil prices have doubled since President Bush took office. Low-income families with children, grandmothers and grandfathers on fixed incomes, and persons with disabilities need help staying warm in the winter.

· $5 billion for school construction. The country confronts a $100 billion backlog in needed school repairs. In addition to helping schools, devoting resources to badly-needed construction also would provide jobs for painters, carpenters, electricians, and construction workers.

The Senate Budget Committee was expected to send to the full Senate a measure that is $18 billion, or 4 percent, more than Bush's budget for non-defense programs such as education, health research, housing and veterans benefits. The House, meanwhile, is working on a version that offers an increase of $22 billion, almost 5 percent. Both plans ratify Bush's $36 billion, or 7 percent, increase for the defense spending. Both plans leave the fate of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts to the next Congress and to the new president who will take office next January 20.