“…and they took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.” John 12:2, 13 KJV
All posts for the month March, 2015
On Friday, March 20th, the Senate approved House Bill 76, the 2016 fiscal year budget amounting to $21.8 billion, which will go into effect on July 1st and increases overall spending by $900 million. This is the largest budget since 2009 and with federal funds included, the 2016 budget totals $40 billion. As required in the Georgia Constitution, the sole obligation of the General Assembly is to pass annually a balanced budget.
Construction received the largest allocation of funds, totaling about $1.1 billion, one-fifth of which will support transportation projects and $23 million to fund the Atlanta Falcons new parking facility. Both the House and Senate budgets exclude the Governor’s recommendation to remove 22,000 part-time school employees and their dependents from the State Health Benefit Plan, however, local school districts will be required to pay an additional $103 million to support the continuation of insurance for bus drivers and cafeteria workers.
Additional items in the budget that receive substantial funding are K-12 schools and college buildings. Under the recommended budget, the HOPE scholarship would receive a 3 percent increase and a 30 percent increase in grants to private college students. The Senate recommendations will need approval from the House and it’s possible the amount could increase if an agreement is reached by both chambers to approve funding measures for transportation. (GA Assiciation of Realtors)
We’ve written before about how the House Republican budget proposals present a fundamentally different vision for the country, a vision that hurts the economy and undermines hard-working Americans. When it comes to investing in the future of America – our children – their priorities are equally destructive.
The Republican budget would gut programs for pre-kindergarten education, low-income students, Special Education programs, and college students. Their budget even goes after workers looking to learn new skills to better compete in the 21st century economy. While the President has offered a budget that would keep our country competitive by investing in our workers and our future workers, here’s what Republican budget would do to students of all different kinds:
Pre-K: Cut Head Start openings for 35,000 children;
Students in low-income areas: Eliminate $1.2 billion in Title I education funding, which would fund 4,500 schools, 17,000 teachers and aides and 1.9 million students;
Special education: Withdraw $347 million in IDEA funding, which would support up to 6,000 special education teachers, paraprofessionals and staff;
Workforce development: Impede job training and employment services for more than 2 million workers;
Higher education: Limit Pell Grants so that more than 8 million students would receive less financial aid and restrict loan forgiveness and income-based repayment programs that would amount to more than $160 billion in cuts.
And while this is at the federal level, conservative leaders at the state level have shown themselves to agree with these priorities. In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker’s budget is wreaking havoc on institutions of learning. University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is close to laying off nearly a quarter of their employees. Rural Wisconsin schools have had to cut counselors and librarians in part because of a lack of funding.
In North Carolina, Governor Pat McCrory’s budget would force the University of North Carolina system to raise tuition, cut professors and increase class sizes. In Kansas, Governor Sam Brownback proposed slashing school budgets to make up for his massive tax cuts largely that benefited the rich and didn’t help the economy. Rather than making important investments, Republican governors are gutting education funding just like they are cutting taxes and hoping that things will magically improve. That’s not how the economy works, and it’s not how education works either.
BOTTOM LINE: Conservatives like to say that America’s workers are the best in the world. But when it comes to supporting our workers and our future by investing in education, whether it is in Congress or in the states, their proposals and policies do the exact opposite: jeopardize our economy both today and in the future. (CAP- Center for American Progress)
On Monday, March 9, 2015, the 3 largest credit-reporting firms – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – reached an agreement with New York state to overhaul their reporting and error resolution practices. Many of these changes will be implemented on a national basis roughly over the next 3 years. Specifically, the firms will be required to use trained employees to review and resolve consumer disputes.
Another major change will be the removal of medical debts from credit reports once the debts are paid instead of the typical 7 years. Finally, the credit bureaus will be required to implement a 180-day waiting period before adding any medical debt information to consumers’ credit reports. This grace period is intended to allow consumers to clear up any discrepancies and catch up with other unpaid bills.
Since 2010, NAR has called on industry participants to reassess and amend credit policies that have been unduly restricting consumer access to mortgage credit. From initial reports, the agreement appears consistent with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s key concerns with the credit-reporting firm’s error resolution process and the rising role of medical debts in consumer reports (National Association of Realtors).
The public sees the nation’s tax system as deeply flawed: 59% say “there is so much wrong with the federal tax system that Congress should completely change it.” Just 38% think the system “works pretty well” and requires “only minor changes.” These opinions have changed little since 2011.
With the April 15 filing deadline approaching, Americans’ top complaint about the tax system is not the amount that they pay in taxes. Rather, it is the feeling that some corporations and wealthy people do not pay their fair share of taxes.
When those who cite multiple frustrations with the tax system are asked what bothers them most, a similar hierarchy of concerns is evident: About a quarter of the public (28%) says they are most bothered by the feeling that corporations do not pay their fair share and 25% say the same about wealthy people not paying their fair share. Fewer (19%) point to the complexity of the tax system, while much smaller percentages cite the amount they pay in taxes (7%) and the feeling that the poor don’t pay their fair share (4%).
Conservative Republicans are the only ideological group to say they are as bothered by the poor not paying their fair share of taxes as by the wealthy not paying their fair share (38% each). Among moderate and liberal Republicans, 64% are bothered a lot by the wealthy not paying their fair share, while 20% say the same about the poor not paying their fair share. Among Democrats, 72% are bothered a lot by the wealthy not paying their fair share of taxes; just 14% express the same concern about the poor failing to pay their fair .
Republicans, especially conservative Republicans, have become more supportive of overhauling the tax system while Democrats have become less supportive. As a result, Republicans are now 18 points more likely than Democrats to say that the tax system needs to be fundamentally revamped: 66% of Republicans say this, compared with 48% of Democrats. Independents’ views are unchanged since 2011; currently, 63% say the tax system should be completely changed.
This Year’s House Republican Budget Is The Ryan Budget All Over Again
Not too long ago, conservatives started to talk a little bit about how inequality was a major problem for our country. They even spoke about reforming government spending to help lower- and middle-income families, not just the wealthiest, get ahead. Well, when it comes to doing more than talking the talk, but also walking the walk, they have failed. Today, House Republicans released their budget, revealing their true priorities: help the wealthy few, not you.
Budgets are about both our values and our theory of how to grow the economy. On values, conservatives have shown that what they value is to balance the budget on the backs of the middle class, instead of working to help millions of middle class Americans and extend a hand to the millions more in poverty. On growing the economy, conservatives are going back to the same trickle-down playbook of giving tax breaks for the wealthy few who need them the least.
In their efforts to cut the deficit, the House GOP budget goes after seniors, the middle class and our students. Not only that, they are gambling with our economy by putting at risk real progress happening in communities across the country and working to make future progress more difficult to achieve. Here are just a few of the things that it does:
The Republican budget proposes devastating cuts to Medicaid and food stamps by creating a block grant system. Instead of providing support for working families when they need it most, conservatives are increasing barriers for families trying to climb into the middle class.
-Cuts proposed to education funding in the Republican budget would hit the poorest children and most vulnerable communities hardest, including severe cuts for program like Head Start and Special Education funding. Instead of making education accessible, Republicans are cutting off opportunity for many young Americans and hurting our long-term economic growth.
– Republicans are again using their budgets as another attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act and take away health care coverage from millions Americans who now have access to quality care through the ACA. A new Obama administration report released just yesterday found that more than 16 million Americans have coverage as a result of the ACA — the largest expansion of health coverage in four decades — but Republicans will vote again to take it away.
– If there is one big winner in this budget, it is the wealthy. The House budget keeps a number of tax favors for the wealthy, including some for private jet owners and hedge fund managers. Their budget also keeps billions of dollars in tax credits for big oil companies. (CAP 3/16/17)