Right now the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate are debating two vastly different budget proposals that would take Maine—and our entire country—in two very different directions.
Only one of these proposals is right for Maine. It is a measured and even-handed response to our economic and fiscal challenges. It replaces all nine years of the dangerous sequester cuts with a plan that stabilizes our debt. And it invests in critical infrastructure that benefits Maine’s economy.
The other proposal works well only for the very wealthy and big corporations that have enjoyed special tax breaks for too long, while hurting everyone else.
First, remember that a federal budget is a blueprint for Congress; it’s a statement of priorities for federal investments over the next ten years. It defines how big the overall all federal budget pie will be by setting revenue targets and how big the slices will be by setting spending targets for health care, education, and other important priorities. Budget resolutions also mark the next stage in the debate over long-term deficit reduction.
In terms of priorities, Congressman Paul Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, rolled out a budget proposal earlier this month that clearly signaled his priorities have nothing to do with protecting health care for seniors and vulnerable children or job-spurring investments like education. Like his previous proposals, this year’s “Ryan Plan” is terribly unpopular. The New York Times blasted it as “a retread of ideas that voters soundly rejected, made even worse, if possible, by sharper cuts to vital services and more dishonest tax provisions.”
Ryan’s plan calls for draconian domestic spending cuts to the tune of $4.6 trillion over the next 10 years—all while protecting special tax loopholes that benefit wealthy Americans and big corporations. In fact, Chairman Ryan’s budget lowers the top tax rate from 39.6 to 10 percent, and it lowers the corporate tax rate from 35 to 25 percent.
So who feels the pain under Chairman Ryan’s “cuts-only” budget proposal?
The Center on Budget Policy and Priorities (CBPP) note that a staggering two-thirds of Chairman Ryan’s cuts come from initiatives that serve middle-class families and poor Americans: Pell Grants, Head Start, school lunches and food stamps (or SNAP).
The Ryan Plan also cuts $2.7 trillion from key health care services like Medicaid and Medicare. It overturns health insurance reforms in the Affordable Care Act and it converts Medicaid into a block-grant program which means states will pay more.
So what’s the alternative? Senator Patty Murray of Washington, chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, has a much more responsible proposal.
Senator Murray’s budget plan (notably supported by Budget Committee member Angus King) also calls for tremendous spending cuts. But these cuts are matched dollar-for-dollar with revenue increases. Murray’s plan cuts spending by $975 billion and raises $975 billion through future tax reforms that close corporate loopholes and cap personal deductions for the wealthy.
Senator Murray’s plan is a far more appropriate and responsible path forward to address our challenges. Her proposal doesn’t set back our economic recovery through harmful cuts and ineffective tax handouts for the wealthy. Her plan is right for Maine.
Chairman Ryan’s proposal would lead us in a direction our nation cannot afford, hurting countless families across Maine—and our entire nation—in the process.