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Leo W Gerard: Trump Offers Fool’s Gold to Fund Infrastructure

Image from USW / Getty

Donald Trump surrounds himself in gold. The signs on Trump buildings shimmer in it. His penthouse in New York is gilded in it.

He claims now to have found the alchemy to conjure $1 trillion in infrastructure gold. He plans to put up a mere $200 billion in federal funds and stir it together with $800 billion in private investment and state dollars.

That is fool’s gold. A falsely-funded infrastructure program is a massive broken promise. America needs real improvements to roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, airports, water systems and railways. That requires a commitment of real tax dollars, not the relinquishment of America’s public assets to profit-seeking private Wall Street entities. Americans should not be charged twice for maintenance of the public good, once through tax breaks to investors and again in outrageous tolls and fees the investors charge.

On Wednesday, standing on the banks of the Ohio River in Cincinnati, Trump reiterated the pledge he made repeatedly on the campaign trail to put $1 trillion into infrastructure. He said “restoring America” is a promise that Washington, D.C., has broken. “It has not been kept, but we are going to keep it,” he said.

“Taxpayers deserve the best results for their investment,” he said, “and I will be sure that is what they get.” But the plan to turn over public assets to private corporations for tax-supported investment is gold only for the 1 percent who can afford to invest.

The Wall Street Journal reported last fall that to raise the private funds, Trump planned to give massive tax breaks of 82 percent of equity to investors that help pay for infrastructure repair. For citizens, that’s a crappy deal – giving Wall Street control over public assets in addition to being forced to fork over the taxes that rich investors will not pay.

That financial alchemy creates poison, not gold.

In addition, there is no profit in many types of infrastructure that need repair, like schools and hospitals. A corporation can’t collect tolls from children entering their elementary school each morning.

Despite Trump’s promise in Cincinnati that he would take care of rural areas, there’s no profit in many crucial infrastructure projects in such regions. Investors won’t pay for a highway needed to connect two isolated towns in West Virginia.

And the profit in some projects is highly questionable. Several corporations that have bought or built toll roads have filed for bankruptcy. This includes highways in Texas, California, Indiana and Alabama.

In other cases, the profits reaped are outrageous. After Chicago sold its 36,000 parking meters to Morgan Stanley, the Wall Street bank doubled the parking rates and charged the city tens of millions annually for meters Chicago took out of service for street repairs, mass transit stops and safety. A city inspector general report on the deal says Chicago under-priced the meters by nearly $1 billion when former Mayor Richard M. Daley signed the 75-year contract in 2008. The bank is expected to make back its $1.15 billion investment by 2020, giving it 60 more years to rake in pure profit on the backs of Chicago taxpayers who paid to install the meters and who feed them daily.

That’s gold for Morgan Stanley, grief for taxpayers.

Another part of Trump’s financing plan is to shift infrastructure costs to states and towns. This also cheats too many citizens. Sure, some places high on the hog like Silicon Valley might be able to afford that. But too many will be left out.

That’s because large numbers of cities and states are facing fiscal crises. Chicago sold its parking meters to fill a budget shortfall. In Oklahoma, where there’s a $900 million budget gap, schools are so underfunded that 96 of the state’s 513 districts have reduced the school week to four days and another 44 may be forced to do that in the fall. The state has shuttered rural hospitals, overcrowded its prisons and limited state troopers to 100 miles of driving a day.

In Kansas, with a $1.1 billion budget deficit, the state Supreme Court just ordered the legislature to properly pay for its schools. The court said Kansas’ under-funding meant inadequate education in basic reading and math for students in one fourth of its public schools. The state shortchanged half of the state’s black students and a third of its Hispanic pupils.

Illinois hasn’t had a budget for two years. The state’s credit rating has been downgraded eight times. It has accrued $14.5 billion in unpaid bills. As a result, more than 1,500 public university and community college workers have been laid off and untold numbers of social service agencies have closed or severely curtailed services.

Other states, including Connecticut, Kentucky, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, face massive pension shortfalls after years of failing to properly pay into the funds.

These places aren’t going to be able to jump up and take on the federal government’s responsibility to invest in infrastructure.

Even the $200 billion that the Trump administration is saying the federal government will provide is in question. It’s in the budget Trump submitted to Congress, but also in that budget is $206 billion in cuts to existing infrastructure programs, including those conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Army Corps of Engineers. That’s the very Corps of Engineers that would pay for the river lock and dam projects that Trump complained Wednesday in Cincinnati were grossly underfunded, causing costly breakdowns.

That kind of budgeting is bad alchemy. That’s not $1 trillion in infrastructure gold.

Trump said Wednesday, “We will build because our people want to build and because we need them to build. We will build because our prosperity demands it. We will build because that is how we make America great again.”

That sounds wonderful. But to build, projects must be properly paid for. And so far, the Trump administration has offered only pyrite.

New Hampshire Congressional Delegation Announces $2.9 Million in AmeriCorps Funding for New Hampshire

 

New grants will support 233 AmeriCorps members in the Granite State

 President Trump’s budget would eliminate the AmeriCorps program

(Washington DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) led the New Hampshire Congressional Delegation in announcing that New Hampshire has received $2.9 million in AmeriCorps funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency for volunteering and service programs. Senator Maggie Hassan and Representatives Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter joined Shaheen in today’s announcement. The grants will support 233 AmeriCorps members in the state and create additional funding for Volunteer NH, the Granite State nonprofit organization that administers AmeriCorps programs in New Hampshire. The federal investment is projected to generate an additional $2.5 million in local support.

“AmeriCorps members are an indispensable resource for nonprofits, communities, and the individuals they serve,” said Senator Shaheen. “Citizen service is an essential part of the solutions to many of the challenges New Hampshire faces, which makes President Trump’s proposal to eliminate the AmeriCorps program all the more concerning. I am incredibly glad to have AmeriCorps members and Volunteer NH working hard in the Granite State to make a difference in our communities. I’ll continue to work in the Senate to make sure that President Trump’s misguided budget, and the elimination of the AmeriCorps program, is not enacted. Today, I congratulate the organizations receiving grants, and thank all AmeriCorps volunteers for their commitment to serving our country.”

“I’m glad to join my colleagues in announcing that four outstanding New Hampshire organizations – City Year New Hampshire, Campus Compact for New Hampshire, New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, and Student Conservation Association – will receive AmeriCorps grants to support their critical work,” said Senator Hassan. “Not only do AmeriCorps programs help support New Hampshire communities, but they also teach volunteers valuable skills that will help them compete in the workforce – which is why it is so concerning that President Trump’s budget proposal would completely eliminate the Corporation for National Community Service and in turn put these important programs and many others in New Hampshire at risk. I look forward to continuing to support their work.”

“I want to thank the Corporation for National and Community Service for awarding these AmeriCorps grants to City Year, Campus Compact for New Hampshire, NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, and the Student Conservation Association,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “These organizations embody the spirit of public service and community that help make the Granite State a wonderful place to live. I am deeply grateful to them and all the men and women of AmeriCorps for their important work, and I look forward to seeing what they do next for our great state.”

“As a Red Cross volunteer in Louisiana after Katrina hit, I witnessed the great work AmeriCorps members performed. Their attitudes and their work ethic made a terrible situation more bearable for the victims, and the volunteers made a huge difference. At home in New Hampshire, I’ve seen the dedication and energy AmeriCorps volunteers bring to serving our K-12 students, seniors, and veterans. I am pleased this grant will allow AmeriCorps to continue harnessing the energy and the compassion of our state’s most valuable resource – our citizens – to perform valuable public service in New Hampshire communities,” said Congresswoman Shea-Porter.

“As Volunteer NH prepares to launch these programs, we welcome hundreds of bright, talented individuals into service across the Granite state,” said Gretchen Berger, Executive Director of Volunteer NH. “AmeriCorps members have made an immeasurable impact in our communities, they will continue to improve lives and address our states most difficult problems through service; including domestic violence, environmental education, land stewardship and education. AmeriCorps service transforms individuals, accelerates their pathway toward meaningful employment and offers them the opportunity to grow as civilly engaged citizens.”

The federal investment includes four grants totaling $1.3 million. AmeriCorps members will tackle some of the toughest problems in New Hampshire including improving educational outcomes for young students, assisting domestic violence victims, and providing conservation and environmental education to residents and visitors in New Hampshire. CNCS will also provide up to $937,015 in education scholarships for the AmeriCorps members funded by these grants to help pay for college, vocational training, or pay back student loans.

The federal investment announced today also includes $645,344 for Volunteer NH!, the Governor-appointed state service commission. Later this summer, Volunteer NH! will make additional grants to support AmeriCorps programs in the state.

Below is a listing of 2017 AmeriCorps competitive grants in New Hampshire:

  • City Year New Hampshire: AmeriCorps members will provide academic and youth development services to students in six public schools in Manchester (50 AmeriCorps members)
  • CCNH Success Corps: AmeriCorps members will increase access to college for 293 economically disadvantaged and special needs youth (127 AmeriCorps members)
  • AmeriCorps Victim Assistance Program: AmeriCorps members will provide direct assistance to victims of domestic and sexual violence and stalking. (26 AmeriCorps members)
  • Student Conservation Association New Hampshire Corps: AmeriCorps members will provide conservation stewardship to public lands and environmental education to residents and visitors. (30 AmeriCorps members)

AmeriCorps engages more than 80,000 members in intensive service annually to serve nonprofit, faith-based, and community organizations at 21,600 locations across the country. These members help communities tackle pressing problems while mobilizing millions of volunteers for the organizations they serve. Since 1994, more than 1 million men and women have served in AmeriCorps, providing more than 1.4 billion hours of service and earning more than $3.3 billion in scholarships to pay for college, more than $1 billion of which has been used to pay back student loan debt.

AmeriCorps is administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that engages millions of Americans in service through AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, the Social Innovation Fund, and the Volunteer Generation Fund, and leads the President’s national call to service initiative, United We Serve. For more information, visit www.NationalService.gov .

Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO Says “Congress Should Reject The President’s Budget”

Washington, DC – Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issues this statement on the President’s budget released yesterday:

“President Trump contradicted his own calls for a $1 trillion investment in our infrastructure by releasing a budget yesterday that proposes significant cuts to critical transportation programs.

“Plain and simple, this budget would idle major infrastructure upgrades, saddle businesses with an aging and ineffective freight and passenger network, and ignore the needs of weary commuters and travelers. At the same time, this budget would impose severe and unwarranted cuts to vital programs that protect and support working people and their families.

“While the President’s budget vaguely commits $200 billion in new federal support for infrastructure, it simultaneously cuts $95 billion from the already financially stressed Highway Trust Fund. The budget slashes in half the Capital Investment Grant program, which supports critical transit and rail capital projects, service expansions and middle-class job creation. Most ominously, the budget also seems to end this entire program moving forward, effectively canceling 50 projects currently in the pipeline.

“The budget cuts Amtrak funding by 50 percent, despite the company’s continued popularity and ridership growth across all major business lines. It also drastically cuts the Maritime Security Program (MSP), which boosts the U.S.-flag sealift capacity of our Armed Forces during military and humanitarian missions, and supports thousands of skilled mariner jobs. The budget hollows out TIGER grants, which direct investments to multi-jurisdictional, multi-modal projects in both rural and urban communities. Furthermore, drastic cuts to the Essential Air Service Program proposed in this budget would harm rural and underserved communities that rely on subsidized air transportation services or face further isolation from the broader economy.

“It is also disturbing that the budget scapegoats active and retired federal employees. Slashing take-home pay, retirement and other benefits, and job security is a terrible way to treat the civil servants who care for our veterans, guard our borders, safeguard our security, support our military, and ensure our health.

“Congressional leaders and appropriators should reject this damaging spending proposal and should instead stay on the bipartisan path they chose in the FY 17 omnibus appropriations bill. We urge the President to work with Congress to fully fund a major expansion in infrastructure spending that puts millions to work.”


The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), provides a bold voice for workers in every mode of transportation and is devoted to protecting middle-class jobs, expanding collective bargaining and ensuring modern, safe and secure transportation operations and infrastructure. For more information visit us at www.ttd.org.

Kuster Denounces President Trump’s Cuts That Will Hurt Rural New Hampshire, Most Vulnerable

 

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Community Development Block Grants, and the Northern Border Regional are all slated for elimination in President Trumps FY 2018 Budget

(Washington, DC) – Yesterday, the Trump Administration released its FY 2018 budget which includes the complete elimination of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), and the Northern Border Regional Commission. Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) expressed her serious concern about the impact of the elimination of these programs on vulnerable New Hampshire populations and economic development in rural parts of the state.

“It’s unconscionable that President Trump would single out programs for elimination that are so important to the most vulnerable Granite Staters and Americans,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “The complete elimination of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is particularly egregious and will harm low-income seniors and families who rely on this lifeline during the cold winter months.”

The budget proposed by President Trump would:

  • Eliminate the Community Development Block Grant Program
  • CDBG provided $9,208,375 to New Hampshire in 2015 to support affordable housing, spur economic development, and create jobs
  • Eliminate the Northern Border Regional Commission
  • New Hampshire received $1,800,000 in 2016, which leveraged $19,557,067 in private investment
  • Included funds for the Groveton Mill redevelopment, the Littleton Riverwalk and other economic development projects in New Hampshire’s North Country and other economically challenged areas
  • Eliminate the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • LIHEAP provided $25,749,807 in 2015 to help Granite State seniors and families stay warm during the winter

Kuster continued, “We’ve seen the success of programs like the Northern Border Regional Commission and Community Development Block Grants in spurring economic development programs throughout our state and in particular rural parts of New Hampshire. The last thing we should be doing is eliminating effective programs that create jobs and boost our economic competitiveness. I intend to oppose these misguided cuts and will fight for programs important to New Hampshire’s residents and economy.”

 

CWA: Working People Will Fight Against Shameful Trump Budget

Following is a statement by CWA President Chris Shelton on the budget released today by the Trump Administration:

“President Trump’s budget is a slap in the face to millions of people who voted for him based on the promises he made on the campaign trail. During the election, Trump visited struggling communities and vowed to preserve and strengthen Medicare and Social Security. His first budget proposal shows that the promise was an outright lie.”

“The Trump budget takes a hatchet to Medicaid, Social Security disability benefits, food assistance for older Americans, food stamps, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), cutting these and other programs by more than $1.7 trillion in order to give an enormous tax cut to the wealthiest.”

“This budget is shameful. Millions of Americans would face draconian cuts to programs that help them with basic needs while billionaires pad their bank accounts with new tax breaks.”

“President Trump, contrary to his campaign promises, has put the concerns and interests of working families dead last. We’re putting Members of Congress on notice: working people will fight back against this vicious budget that targets average Americans in order to give a big handout to the top 1%.”

Trump’s Budget Is A Disaster

NH Elected Leaders Along With National Labor And
Environmental Leaders Respond To Trump’s Proposed Cuts.

President Trump unveiled his $1.1 trillion dollar budget for discretionary spending yesterday. Elected leaders, labor unions, environmental groups, and advocates for working people are outraged at the massive cuts.

The Hill reports:

The 54-page “America First” document, focused primarily on fiscal 2018, would boost the Defense Department and related programs at Energy by $54 billion, and Homeland Security by $2.8 billion. It would offset such increases by cutting the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development by $10.1 billion (28 percent) and the Environmental Protection Agency by $2.6 billion (31 percent). The latter cut would eliminate approximately 3,200 positions, according to the document.

The agency-by-agency plans include eliminating dozens of grant programs at the Education and Commerce departments—many of them related to climate change. And Trump would eliminate the following agencies:

The African Development Foundation; the Appalachian Regional Commission; the Chemical Safety Board; the Corporation for National and Community Service; the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the Delta Regional Authority; the Denali Commission; the Institute of Museum and Library Services; the Inter-American Foundation; the U.S. Trade and Development Agency; the Legal Services Corporation; the National Endowment for the Arts; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation; the Northern Border Regional Commission; the Overseas Private Investment Corporation; the United States Institute of Peace; the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness; and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

“The Trump administration should immediately go back to the drawing board,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). “This budget is a blueprint for undermining the health and well-being of Granite Staters and would be particularly devastating for seniors. It’s needless and cruel to drastically cut programs that so many people in New Hampshire depend on like Meals on Wheels and heating assistance. It also makes no sense to cut clean air and water programs, coastal protection, and economic development to struggling rural communities.

“President Trump’s budget is built for corporate special interests, not hard-working families and small businesses. The Trump budget makes indiscriminate cuts that will make it harder for entrepreneurs to grow job-creating small businesses, harder for children to access a high-quality public education, and harder for seniors to stay in their own homes and live independently,” said Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH).  “President Trump’s budget would undermine efforts to strengthen our health care workforce, making it more difficult to combat the heroin, fentanyl and opioid crisis. It would slash funding for life-saving medical research. And it would cripple our ability to fight climate change, which threatens New Hampshire’s economy and our way of life.”

“A budget is a moral document. As an American, I’m deeply concerned about the drastic cuts President Trump has proposed in this budget blueprint, which fail to reflect our shared morals and values. As your representative in Congress, I will fight to stop this budget, which would hurt New Hampshire in so many ways,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH01). “As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I’m particularly concerned that this budget reflects an incomplete understanding of how we keep our nation safe. Since World War II, our international affairs budget has been key to maintaining stability around the globe, and cutting critical international aid and diplomatic funding would be disastrous for our national security.”

“Today’s budget would even eliminate programs that feed the hungry, including after-school nutrition assistance and Meals on Wheels. Contrary to the Administration’s outrageous statements at this afternoon’s press briefing, these programs do work, and cutting them is the exact opposite of ‘compassionate.’ I will not stand by while this Administration uses falsehoods to justify destroying vital support systems for our most vulnerable citizens. Today I will be sending the Trump administration just a few of the dozens of peer-reviewed studies that show Meals on Wheels improves seniors’ overall health and nutritional intake and reduces social isolation. This budget is yet one more example of President Trump turning his back on the very people he claimed he was there to help,” Shea-Porter added. 

“President Trump’s preliminary budget proposal is simply a disaster for our economy, environment, seniors, and hardworking families in New Hampshire and across the country,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster (D-NH02). “This budget proposal should raise red flags for anyone who wants to grow our middle class, create good paying jobs, protect human health and our environment, and fight climate change. We can’t turn back the clock on the progress we’ve made in recent years to get our economy pointed in the right direction and this budget is little more than a return to the same failed policies of the past. President Trump needs to seriously reconsider this approach and focus on crafting a budget proposal that benefits all Americans, not just those at the very top.”

Kuster also highlighted cuts to programs that directly impact New Hampshire working families.

“In New Hampshire, we know the serious impact toxic contamination can have on drinking water, public health, and quality of life. Slashing thirty one percent of the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget will only make defending public health and our environment more difficult. Cutting the Department of Health and Human Services by thirteen percent will eliminate the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and harm programs like Meals on Wheels and home visits that our seniors and low-income families rely on.”

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO called this budget proposal “destructive and dangerous.”

“Working people in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin didn’t vote for a budget that slashes workforce training and fails to invest in our nation’s infrastructure. President Trump’s proposed budget attempts to balance the budget on the backs of working families. The $54 billion cut to programs that benefit working families is dangerous and destructive. Huge cuts to the departments of Labor, Education and Transportation will make workplaces less safe, put more children at risk and make improving our failing infrastructure much more difficult. The administration can and should do better.”

David Cox Sr., National President of the American Federation of Government Employees warned that this budget would lead to massive layoffs. 

“This budget shirks our nation’s responsibility to care for its citizens and ensure the public’s health and safety, help our struggling neighbors secure better jobs and safe housing, and promote democracy around the world,” Cox stated. “The severity of the budget cuts proposed by President Trump could require mass layoffs of employees at federal departments and agencies, although the budget blueprint released by the White House does not detail how many federal employees could lose their jobs.

“This cuts, if implemented, would have devastating and lasting consequences on the nation. Every American should study the facts, reject the rhetoric, and decide for themselves if they share the bleak vision of America that President Trump is promoting,” Cox added. 

Ed Wytkind, President of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), said these cuts take our transportation infrastructure in the wrong direction. 

“The austerity measures offered for transportation in the President’s budget blueprint go in the wrong direction and must be rejected. We cannot cut our way to a better and more modern transportation system. The President has rightfully called for a historic $1 trillion investment in our transportation system and infrastructure. But the budget released today does not advance that vision and instead would deal a severe blow to many key investment programs that are critical to our passenger and freight transportation network.”  

“This budget proposal makes it even more clear that Trump has no intention of protecting our communities or preserving our future,” said 350.org Executive Director May Boeve. “Slashing the EPA’s funding only helps make fossil fuel executives richer while wrecking the climate and leaving workers and families by the wayside. What we really need is investment in a 100% renewable energy economy that creates jobs and curbs the climate crisis, and our movements will keep fighting until we get it.”

Congressman Frank Guinta’s Double Speak On Supporting Veterans

“Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value,” proclaimed Vice President Joe Biden in a 2012 speech.

Vice President Biden is basically saying is that if you are not willing to pay for something you say you value, then you really don’t value it at all. This type of double speak is common among some politicians.

In New Hampshire, Congressman Frank Guinta talks a good game about his support for veterans, but in Washington, he has a long history of failing our veterans.

“Our nation’s active duty personnel and veterans risk their lives to ensure our country remains safe in the face of ever evolving threats. Our military heroes deserve the very best, and as your representative to Washington, one of my highest priorities is to protect and expand the resources, services and support available to them.

We must keep our promise to provide for those who courageously put their lives on the line to serve and protect our great country. I have always been a strong advocate for our military members and veterans in the Granite State,” wrote Guinta on his website.

We owe our veterans the benefits they’ve earned, but Frank Guinta has consistently voted against increasing funding for veterans programs.

“Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”

Just nine months ago, Guinta voted against the Omnibus Appropriations bill that funds the government. The bill increased funding for the VA by $6.4 billion. The legislation, which fortunately was not tanked by Guinta’s refusal to support it, increased funding for medical care by $4.7 billion and provided funds to hire 770 VA disability claims processors to tackle the claims backlog.   

In one fell swoop, Guinta voted to shut down the government and refused to increase funding for critical veterans programs. He even called these important funding increases “inducements to vote for more federal bloat and debt.”   

While serving on the Budget Committee this year, Guinta rejected an attempt by Congressman Seth Moulton, an Iraq war veteran, to increase funding by $340 million for FY2017 and $1.14 billion for FY2018. These increases would have been paid for raising taxes on the wealthiest and repealing tax breaks for Big Oil and corporations that ship jobs overseas.

“Frank Guinta may claim to fight for our veterans, but his votes prove that he betrays them in Congress.  His votes against increased funding for medical care, VA claims processors, and repairs to crumbling VA facilities show his dishonesty and disrespect for veterans,” said Carol Shea-Porter spokeswoman Naomi Andrews. “His Budget Committee votes place multinational corporations, billionaires, and Big Oil ahead of our obligations to our veterans. Carol Shea-Porter was a military spouse and is proud of her husband and all of America’s veterans. She looks forward to working again for our troops and our veterans in Congress.”

It seems pretty clear that Frank Guinta’s claim to be “a strong advocate for our military members and veterans” is just campaign double speak.

Congress Pushes Budget Deal To Avoid Shutdown, Delays Sequester, And Partially Preserve Social Security

Today the White House and congressional leadership announced a budget agreement that sets government funding levels for two years and extends the nation’s borrowing limit through 2017. The agreement provides the defense and domestic discretionary budgets with equal relief from mandatory spending cuts.

“This budget agreement provides a balanced approach to funding the federal government over the next two years,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “I’m very encouraged that leadership in Congress and the White House were able to find a bipartisan compromise that lifts the debt ceiling and provides much needed relief from across the board budget cuts known as sequestration. More blind budget cutting would be disastrous for New Hampshire families and our state’s economy. It’s my hope that Congress can quickly approve this legislation and avoid any last-minute brinkmanship that could threaten the full faith and credit of the United States.”

American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. praised the deal as it relieved workers from the fear of another government shutdown and forced unpaid furloughs. 

“This budget deal is an exceedingly rare example of what can be accomplished when elected leaders put aside their partisan bickering and govern in a responsible way that benefits working families.

The bipartisan budget deal announced by congressional leaders and the White House would suspend sequestration for the next two years and provide much-needed increases in military and domestic spending.

Federal workers have endured $159 billion in cuts under the guise of fiscal restraint, and our members were united in opposing any budget that would target them for additional sacrifice.

The budget also is good news for federal retirees under the Civil Service Retirement System, who will no longer be facing a 53% increase in their premiums under Medicare Part B.

Federal employees are relieved that they will no longer be facing the threat of another government shutdown or unpaid furloughs. We urge the Congress to repeal the Budget Control Act altogether so that these manufactured crises will no longer occur.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka appeared to be more relieved than joyful over the deal.

“Congressional leaders and the President successfully eluded the traps set by a conservative faction in Congress who have tried to hold our economy hostage to achieve their radical agenda.

The full faith and credit of the United States will be preserved as we pay our bills on time – preventing brinksmanship over the debt until 2017.

Tight budget caps on defense and non-defense spending will be eased, restoring funding for vital programs and stimulating the economy. While it fails to provide Medicare beneficiaries with full relief from higher costs, it reduces a spike in deductibles for everyone and avoids a sharp increase in premiums for many. It ensures that 11 million Americans on Social Security Disability Insurance continue to receive full benefits through 2022. It avoids across-the-board benefit cuts of nearly 20 percent starting in 2016. 

While it does not offer long-term solutions for these problems, it provides relief without yielding to the conservatives’ extreme “entitlement reform” approaches that would have done real harm.

Now that we have again kept our country from going over the edge, we hope lawmakers will work on a raising wages agenda that can bring better lives to working families.”

Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans was pleased that Congress avoided massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare and vowed to continue pushing for a more accurate way to calculate the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly. 

“Movement to prevent a default and avert a government shutdown is welcome news for all Americans, but the deal is not perfect.

The Alliance for Retired Americans is relieved that this budget deal would protect millions of seniors from significant increases to their Medicare Part B deductibles while preventing a 20% cut to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits in 2016.

The reallocation between the Social Security Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and SSDI trust funds would prevent a massive cut in benefits for the disabled. The transfer would not impact the long-term solvency of Social Security.

We would have preferred no increase to Medicare Part B premiums; however, limiting the increases of those who are not ‘held harmless’ is a step in the right direction. In early October, Virginia Alliance President Ron Thompson of Ivor, Virginia spoke at a Capitol Hill press conference on how the increase would financially harm him. Over the last two weeks more than 30,000 Alliance members contacted their Members of Congress saying that a 52% premium hike was unfair and unwarranted. Our voices were heard.

While it appears a crisis has been averted, we have not improved retirement security for our nation’s seniors by expanding their earned Social Security benefits. We will continue to fight to make that a reality by urging Congress to implement a more accurate way to calculate cost-of-living adjustments: the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E).”

Kelly Ayotte’s Dysfunctional Republican Majority Fails Students, the Environment and 9/11 First Responders

Concord, N.H. – Yesterday, Kelly Ayotte’s dysfunctional Republican majority pulled off a stunning trifecta: managing to fail students, the environment and 9/11 first responders all in a single day’s work.

“There is no question that Kelly Ayotte’s dysfunctional Republican majority is simply not working,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Press Secretary Aaron Jacobs. “Letting any one of these programs expire for students, the environment and 9/11 first responders would have been bad enough, but to let all three expire in one day because of Washington Republicans’ political games is simply mind boggling.”

See below for more details: 

New York Daily News: 9/11 heroes face death as dysfunctional Congress lets Zadroga Act expire

“… a key part of the life-saving bill expired at 12:01 a.m. Thursday when a dysfunctional and gridlocked Congress failed to act to renew it. ‘Stress is not even the word. It’s beyond stress,’ said Poliseno, who is married with two daughters — Olivia, 9, and Victoria, 11. ‘My life depends on this.’”

Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Federal conservation fund allowed to expire for first time in 50 years

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund, a pot of federal money filled with offshore drilling royalties used for conservation projects and parks, expiredWednesday, meaning no new money can be deposited into it… The fund, which has never been allowed to expire in its 50-year history, has helped build fishing access sites, city parks and hiking trails… [Tester] said the failure falls on the Republican majority and shows that they don’t care about public access to public lands.”

Nashua Telegraph: Nashua joins Shaheen in conservation support

“Nick Caggiano, superintendent of Nashua’s Parks and Recreation Department, praised the conservation fund for allowing the city to develop new programs and facilities, as well as the ability to maintain and upgrade its current sites. ‘The funding is very important,’ he said. ‘And that’s $1.2 million that I wouldn’t otherwise have.’ In addition to the positives it brings to the city’s green landscape, funding for such recreational projects help attract new residents to the downtown, according to Tracy Hatch of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce.

WSAU: Federal Perkins Loan Program expires without Congressional reauthorization

“The federal government passed their continuing resolution to keep the government running without a partial shutdown Wednesday, but a very popular program did not get an extension. The Federal Perkins Loan Program expired at Midnight.  The Perkins program had been around for 57 years, until Midnight, when it reached it’s sunset date. This program was a revolving loan pool funded by both government and universities that made fixed rate low interest loans to income-eligible students.”

State Employees Praise Budget Compromise Agreement

“We are pleased not only for the state employees, but for all citizens of NH that the Governor and GOP leaders have reached a compromise budget agreement. 

The compromise budget will include business tax cuts and the state employees’ previously negotiated 2% cost-of-living pay increase.  It will support critical priorities for New Hampshire’s families and businesses. And, it will include a trigger mechanism that ensures revenues are at levels that would at least sustain the current budget before additional tax cuts go into effect. It will also allow the next legislature to determine what spending or revenue offsets should be made to pay for the second round of tax cuts – before they go into effect.”

We applaud the Governor and the legislature for continuing to work together to arrive at this point.  We were confident that, in the end, ideology would take a back seat to this common sense approach that benefits NH citizens by preserving critical public services, while also serving the interests of our economy.

Tomorrow, the legislature will introduce legislation that reflects the compromise – a bill that provides for the 2015 – 2017 employment agreement with the state employees and a bill that provides for the business tax decrease, with the “trigger.”  They will then consider an override of the Governor’s budget veto. If the legislation passes, Governor Hassan will then ask Democrats to support overriding the veto allowing both the compromise and the budget to go into effect.

The state employees’ will receive a 2% wage increase as of January 1, 2016 and a second 2% increase in January 2017. 

While we are happy with this forward movement and support the compromise, we remain concerned about other outstanding issues.  We look forward to continuing to work with our legislators to find reasonable solutions that are fiscally conservative and protect the state’s long-term financial outlook and ability to support critical priorities for New Hampshire’s families and businesses.”


You can read Governor Hassan’s full statement of the compromise here.

You can also read the response from the NH Senate Democrats here.

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