Originally appeared in the Huffington Post
The federal budget is as much about our national priorities as it is about numbers and data.
Unfortunately, the Republican budget resolution sets all the wrong priorities and casts a particularly grim vision for the future.
In my view, this budget marks a major step backward for the country, it is one of the worst budgets I have seen in my 22 years in the Senate and I intend to oppose it.
The bottom line is that the Republican budget fails to support families trying to create a better life for themselves and their children. It will exacerbate the economic hopelessness that is fueling unrest throughout the country rather than alleviate it.
The Republican budget not only fails to help those who need it most, it would actually make their situation worse.
This budget would eliminate the estate tax, which affects only the 5,400 wealthiest households in America each year, while at the same time increasing the tax burden on working families with children by an average of $900 a year.
When you look at the implications of the Republican budget, particularly the key issues of health care, jobs, taxes and education, it is painfully clear just how disastrous the results could be, especially in California.
The Affordable Care Act has ushered in a new era for our country, one where health care is attainable and affordable for all. The GOP budget, however, would repeal the Affordable Care Act and take us in the opposite direction.
Under this budget, 1.4 million Californians could lose their health coverage.
Further, the GOP seems intent on helping the wealthiest among us at the expense of our seniors:
- More than 3.6 million California seniors would be forced to pay out of pocket for cost-saving preventive health services.
- More than 417,000 California seniors would be forced to pay an average of940 more for prescription drugs each year.
- More than 5.2 million California seniors could be forced off of Medicare and into a voucher program.
It is also extremely disturbing to see the drastic cuts the GOP budget would make to women's healthcare:
- Nearly 1,800 fewer low-income California women could be screened for cancer as a result of cuts to the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program.
- Almost 230,000 fewer women and children would have access to prenatal care and other services as a result of cuts to the Maternal and Child Health Block grant program.
- California would face a1 million cut in federal Title X funding, which provides access to contraceptive and reproductive health information, among other critical services.
On jobs--perhaps the most important issue for both parties in the wake of the 2008 recession--the GOP budget threatens to reverse the impressive gains we've made over the past six years. We've had 61 consecutive months of employment growth, much of it the result of smart and targeted investments by our government.
Through steep funding cuts across the board, the GOP budget would gut the very investments we need to grow the economy and create jobs.
- 277,000 jobs in California could be lost as a result of cuts to transportation, education, and infrastructure spending.
- 269,800 workers in California would lose access to job training services.
- Funding for more than 2,000 teachers in California's public schools could vanish.
When it comes to taxes, the GOP budget priorities are completely upside-down. Republicans would fund tax cuts for the wealthy by increasing taxes on working families with children.
The Republican budget calls for the elimination of the estate tax, which only applies to individuals who are worth more than $5 million or couples more than $10 million.
Republicans attempt to justify this by arguing that they are really trying to protect small businesses and farms that are subject to the tax. But only 20 small businesses or farms paid the tax in 2013.
At the same time that Republicans are trying to reduce taxes for just 20 small businesses and farms, the GOP budget calls for the elimination of tax benefits for working families like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.
In practice, this means an estimated 1.5 million working-class California families would see their yearly taxes increase by more than $1,000--a sum that many simply cannot afford.
I agree with the majority of Americans who believe the richest among us do not need another tax cut. And it should go without saying that those who are living paycheck-to-paycheck certainly don't deserve a tax hike to pay for it.
Finally, Republican calls for steep cuts to education programs will undoubtedly hurt children. Education has always been the vehicle for individuals to achieve the American dream, to better the lives of the next generation.
Under the GOP budget, however, the dreams of a quality education will only become more and more elusive for those who need it most.
- In California, cuts to the Head Start program would prevent 4,510 low-income children from having access to quality early childhood education.
- Federal assistance for schools serving low-income children would drop by2 billion in the next year alone--enough to fund 500 schools in California and educate 293,000 students.
- Cuts to Pell Grants would increase the cost of college for 1 million low-income California students.
It is clear that we need to have a frank and meaningful debate about our country's budgeting priorities. But the draconian cuts outlined in the GOP budget are simply unacceptable.
How can we take away the health care of the most vulnerable? How can we make it even harder for Americans to find a job? How can we cut taxes for the rich yet raise them for the poor? And how can we deny our nation's youth the opportunity to learn?
The answer to each of those questions is that we can't.
Not only are these Republican priorities morally wrong, they will stifle our economic growth.
I recognize the federal government can't solve all of our country's problems, but we can and should take steps to set the nation on the right path and give working-class Americans the ability to improve their situation.
The GOP budget does neither. It's time to go back to the drawing board.