The Budget Deal: The Right Direction for Kids
After months of uncertainty surrounding a possible government shutdown, the looming debt ceiling, and House Speaker John Boehner’s resignation, Congress and President Obama have finally negotiated, passed, and signed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.
With $112 billion in new funding—split evenly between defense and nondefense spending—the budget agreement is a big step in the right direction. First and foremost, the deal will significantly ease sequestration, which would have gone into full effect for the first time in FY 2016.
Without this budget agreement, Congress would have had to make steep cuts to non-defense discretionary programs to comply with sequestration spending caps. The hardest-hit programs would be the ones that low- and moderate- income families count on, including education funding and affordable housing (see table right).
What’s more, this year’s Census data gave us irrefutable evidence that those and other safety net programs are effective reducing poverty. In 2014, government benefits cut poverty nearly in half, lifting more than 8 million children above the poverty line. Now, with a budget deal that lifts the caps on nondefense spending, it’s time to renew our investment in proven programs to support low-income families and children.
While the budget agreement is a great start, it’s not perfect. During the negotiations, children’s advocates called on Congress to #StopTheCuts—to return spending to full pre-sequester levels. In other words, restore 100% of the sequestration cuts. This agreement doesn’t do that. It restores 90% of the cuts in 2016, but just 60% of them 2017.
Moreover, the deal contains offsets to pay for $80 billion of the funding increase. Instead of reining in tax breaks and loopholes, the agreement offsets new spending by extending cuts to Medicare provider reimbursement rates and repealing a provision of the Affordable Care Act designed to boost enrollment in employer-sponsored coverage. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that roughly 675,000 more people will be uninsured after 2018 as a result of this offset.
The budget deal is overwhelmingly positive, but we’re not out of the woods yet. Congress still needs to pass an omnibus appropriations bill to fund specific agencies and programs. If members of Congress decide to attach unacceptable policy-riders to the appropriations bill, we could still be heading for a government shutdown.
The budget agreement is a good first step. Instead of setting up another ideological standoff, Congress should seize this momentum—and the $112 billion in new funding—and invest in proven programs that help kids.
Please join us in telling Congress to make children a budget priority by:
- supporting FY 2016 appropriations that invest in our nation’s babies, children, youth and families;
- not seeking savings from programs that invest in children and their families: and
- preventing harmful policy riders from being attached to the bill.
- Send a letter to your Congressman and Senators by clicking here.
- Tweet your Congressman and Senators and tell them to #InvestInKids Use the twitter handles for your Senators and Representatives with the sample tweets below.
- Children and families need Congress to #InvestInKids #FY2016 budget
- Investing in children is an investment in the next generation of workers and leaders. #InvestInKids #FY2016 budget
- 1 in 5 US children live in poverty. We need more investment, not less, in programs that work. #InvestInKids #FY2016 budget kids.