USDA Budget Would Rise 11% on Food-Stamp Spending

I know that this is just one more betrayal, I’m just waiting for Arianna to tell me why.

U.S. Department of Agriculture spending would increase 11 percent to $144 billion in fiscal 2012 as the number of people receiving nutrition assistance reaches records and food-safety spending rises, the government said.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, will cost $85.2 billion in the year starting Oct. 1, up 15 percent from levels in 2010, the last time agencies had an enacted budget, according to the spending plan President Barack Obama sent to Congress today. A record 43.6 million people, more than one of every eight Americans, received food stamps in November, as the jobless rate stayed near a 27-year high, the USDA said earlier this month.

“There’s growth in the program like there is in unemployment, because of the recession and continued economic weakness,” said James Weill, the president of the Washington- based Food Research and Action Center.

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Defense Budget Counts on Drawdown in Iraq, Afghanistan

You won’t hear this either:

The Obama administration is counting on a sharp drawdown in troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in the coming year in order to achieve a first since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks: a decrease in the overall level of defense spending.

All told, the president’s budget plan for the Defense Department anticipates fiscal 2012 military spending levels of around $671 billion, a drop from the previous year’s total spending request of $708 billion to fund the ongoing wars and cover the Pentagon’s core operating budget.

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Giving a Hand Up to Low-Income Families

You probably won’t see this part of the budget playing anywhere on the Left blogosphere:

….Spur Job Creation and Support Strong Economic Growth. While the economy has added jobs for each of the last 12 months, too many Americans families are still hurting and the unemployment rate is unacceptably high. That is why the Administration is continuing a series of targeted steps to spur job creation and economic growth in the short term in a fiscally responsible way. As 2010 ended, families across the Nation faced the prospect of rising taxes. The Administration not only prevented a tax increase, but also negotiated a series of measures to create jobs and protect vulnerable populations most affected by the recession by extending unemployment benefits for 13 months, preventing an estimated 7 million workers from losing their benefits as they search for jobs; allowing businesses to expense 100 percent of certain investments, which is estimated to generate more the $50 billion in additional investment and fuel job creation; and continuing the Research and Experimentation Tax Credit and Renewable Energy Grants, which accelerate the growth of these promising industries and allow them to hire more workers. The Budget also proposes an upfront investment of $50 billion in infrastructure as part of a new surface transportation bill that will result in additional job creation from projects that improve the Nation’s highway, transit, rail, airport, and air traffic control systems, making the U.S. more competitive going into the future.

Extend Tax Cuts for Families. Several tax breaks that are important to families across the Nation were part of the bipartisan Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act that the President negotiated and signed into law in December. The legislation extends the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit at $1000 level, rather than letting revert to $500. It also expands its refundability, which continues a tax cut that goes to 10.5 million working families with 18 million children. The expanded Earned Income Tax Credit, which is worth up to $600 for families with three or more children, and reduces the “marriage penalty” faced by some working married families, was also extended. Finally, to help students and their families pay for college, the Act included several education tax provisions, including making the student loan interest deduction more generous.  It also extended, until 2012, the new American Opportunity Tax Credit, a partially-refundable tax credit worth up to $2,500 per student per year that helps more than 8 million students and their families. The President’s 2012 Budget proposes to make that credit permanent. 

Strengthen Unemployment Insurance. As part of the Bipartisan Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act, signed by the President in December, emergency unemployment benefits are extended at their current level for 13 months, preventing an estimated 7 million workers from losing their benefits over the next year as they search for jobs. Still, many States’ unemployment insurance (UI) systems are chronically underfunded and the economic downturn has severely tested their adequacy, leaving 31 states in debt at the end of 2010. To provide short-term relief in these States, the 2012 budget provides a two-year suspension of State interest payments on their debt and automatic increases in Federal unemployment insurance taxes while encouraging States to put their UI systems on firmer financial footing so they can pay back their debts and better respond to future economic conditions.  The Budget does so by increasing the minimum level of wages subject to unemployment taxes to $15,000 starting in 2014, indexed after that. In 2014, the taxable wage base will be nearly the same in real terms as it was in 1982, when President Reagan signed into law the last legislation increasing the wage base. In addition, in 2014, the Federal tax rate will also be lowered to avoid a Federal tax increase.  Despite the efforts of States to reduce improper payments, over $15 billion in UI benefits were erroneously paid in 2010, and the overpayment rate reached 11 percent, an increase from the previous year.  The Administration will tackle this problem by boosting funding for UI integrity efforts and proposing legislative changes that would reduce improper payments and employer tax evasion. 

Help States Provide Paid Family Leave to Workers.  Too many families must make the painful choice between the care of their families and a paycheck they desperately need.  The Family and Medical Leave Act allows workers to take job-protected unpaid time off, but millions of families can’t afford to use unpaid leave. A handful of States have enacted policies to offer paid family leave, but more States should have the chance. The Budget supports a $23 million State Paid Leave Fund within the Department of Labor that will provide competitive grants to help States that choose to launch paid-leave programs cover their start-up costs. 

Support High-Quality Early Childhood Programs. Because effective investment in early childhood is so critical to children’s ability to reach their full potential and the Nation’s future economic health, the Budget includes $8.099 billion for Head Start and Early Head Start to serve approximately 968,000 children and families, maintaining the historic expansion undertaken with Recovery Act funds, in addition to the $350 million invested in the Early Learning Challenge Fund.  The Budget similarly includes $6.3 billion for the Child Care and Development Fund, an additional $1.3 billion, to support 1.7 million children with child care subsidies. At the same time, the Budget invests in improved quality: proposing principles for child care reform that focus on improving quality, protecting health and safety, and strengthening early learning; and supporting proposed regulations to strengthen Head Start by requiring low-performing programs to compete for funding.

Reform Child Welfare. The Budget includes $2.5 billion over 10 years to support a comprehensive child welfare reform proposal in order to help prevent abuse and keep children in safe homes and out of long-term foster care placements.

Promote Fatherhood. The Budget promotes strong family relationships by encouraging fathers to take responsibility for the emotional and financial well-being of their children, changing policies so that more of their support reaches their children, and continuing a commitment to vigorous child support enforcement. The Budget provides $1 billion over 10 years to encourage States to pass through child support payments to families rather than retaining those payments.  The Budget also provides $570 million over 10 years for States to provide access and visitation services, which can strengthen a father’s relationship with his children and facilitate the payment of child support. To help states through difficult fiscal times, in FY 2012 and 2013, the Budget provides an additional $300 million per year for State performance incentive payments, which continues an emphasis on program outcomes and efficiency. The Budget also provides for $75 million in Responsible Fatherhood grants and $75 million in Healthy Marriage grants in FY 2012.

Equip American Workers to Compete and Win in the Global Economy. In this increasingly interconnected global economy, it is important that we give American workers the capabilities and American businesses the tools to compete and win in the global economy. We must transform our economy from one too focused on speculation, spending and borrowing to one that is educating, innovating and building. The Administration is committed to smart investments in a lifetime of learning that will improve the capabilities of our workforce. The Budget proposes to:

  • Establish a Competitive Early Learning Challenge Fund. Recognizing that quality early education is an investment that pays off for years to come, the Administration proposes creating a competitive fund to encourage States to take dramatic steps to improve the quality of their early childhood development programs. 
  • Improve Elementary and Secondary Education. Too often, education funds are allocated based on factors not tied to success. In the context of  the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Administration is committed to consolidating narrow programs into broader authorities with higher, clearer standards and assessments; recognizing and rewarding schools and teachers that help students make gains; and giving States and school districts new flexibility to help all students graduate from high school, college- and career-ready. The Budget proposes to do this by expanding the successful Race to the Top program to school districts, funding the Investing in Innovation program and creating new “pay for success” bonds that invest in proven innovative approaches to student learning.
  • Consolidate Redundant and Stove-Piped Programs to Improve Outcomes. The Budget proposes eliminating 13 Department of Education discretionary programs and consolidating 38 K-12 programs into 11 new programs that emphasize using competition to allocate funds, giving communities more choices and using rigorous evidence to fund what works.  The Administration will make sure that, under these competitions, there is an equitable geographic distribution of funds nationwide.
  • Give Students Access to Successful Schools. The Budget provides significant funding to school turnaround grants to help States and school districts turn around our Nation’s lowest performing school and expand educational options by helping to grow effective charter schools and other autonomous public schools that achieve positive results. 
  • Launch “First in the World” Competition. The Budget invests $150 million in a new initiative to increase college access and completion and improve educational productivity through an evidence-based grant competition. In addition to these competitive grants, the Budget also provides $50 million in 2012 and a total of $1.3 billion over five years in performance-based funding to institutions that have demonstrable success in enrolling and graduating more high-need students and enabling them to enter successful employment.
  • Improve Job Training. The Budget provides funding for a competitive Workforce Innovation Fund that will allow States and localities to create and test new ideas and strategies for delivering better employment and education results and provides nearly $10 billion to fund Workforce Investment Act (WIA) programs to match unemployed people with jobs and give people with skill gaps the training they need to secure employment. The Administration will also work with Congress to reform the WIA to better meet the needs of employers and regional economies.

Fund the Strategic Plan to End Homelessness. The Budget includes over $2.5 billion in HUD funds to make progress toward the goals of the Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness, which was released by the President in June 2010. This includes over $2.3 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants to maintain existing units and expand prevention, rapid-rehousing, and permanent supportive housing, and $145 million in new housing vouchers for over 19,000 homeless veterans and homeless persons who receive health care and other services through the Departments of Health and Human Services and Veterans Affairs. In addition, the Budget provides $50 million for new service coordinators and incentive fees, which will incent housing authorities to serve more homeless persons.  These funding increases will enable HUD to assist approximately 78,000 additional homeless individuals and families.

Combat Hunger and Expand Access to Nutritious Foods.  At a time of continuing need, the Budget provides $7.9 billion for discretionary nutrition program support.  Funding supports 9.6 million participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infant, and Children WIC program, which is critical to the health of pregnant women, new mothers, and their infants and young children. The Administration supports implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, strengthening the child nutrition programs and improving children’s access to healthy meals.  As the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) continues to serve an unprecedented number of participants, the Administration re-proposes to temporarily suspend the time benefit limits for certain working-age, low-income adults without dependents for an additional fiscal year.  The Budget also proposes to restore the SNAP benefit cuts that were included in Child Nutrition reauthorization. In order to combat food deserts, the Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, and Treasury have partnered to make available approximately more than $400 million in financing to community development financial institutions, other nonprofits, public agencies, and businesses with sound strategies for addressing the healthy food needs of communities.

Continue Critical Funding for Health Centers. Health centers are a key component of the nation’s health care safety net.  These sites offer comprehensive, high quality, primary and preventative health care services to all Americans regardless of ability to pay.  Health centers will continue to be a critical element of the health system as the Nation expands insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In 2009, the Recovery Act provided $500 million to expand health center services to an additional 2 million patients.  The ACA continues this progress by investing a total of $2.2 billion in new resources for health center services in 2011 and 2012.  The Budget builds on this investment by providing an additional $2.1 billion.  In 2012, health centers are estimated to serve 24 million patients.

Bring Cost of LIHEAP Down to Previous Levels. During this period of tough budget choices, the President’s Budget provides $2.57 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to help struggling families make ends meet by offsetting some of their home heating and cooling costs.  The Budget does not re-propose the creation of a LIHEAP funding trigger included in previous budget requests.  The LIHEAP program doubled in FY 2009 following an energy spike, but energy prices are now significantly lower, and the prior level is no longer sustainable.  The 50 percent funding reduction brings funding back to the level before the energy price spike. The Administration will continue to monitor energy prices going forward and will be willing to revisit program needs if there are significant price increases

Reform and Cut the Community Services Block Grant. The Budget cuts funding for the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) by 50 percent. CSBG provides funding for the important work of Community Action Agencies but does not hold these agencies accountable for outcomes.  The Budget provides $350 million to fund the highest performing Community Action Agencies so that scarce taxpayer dollars are targeted to high-performing agencies that are most successful in meeting important community needs.

Ensure Proper Classification of Employees to Protect Benefits. When employees are misclassified as independent contractors, they are deprived of benefits and protections to which they are legally entitled, such as overtime and unemployment benefits. Misclassification also costs taxpayers money in lost funds for the Treasury and in the Social Security, Medicare and Unemployment Insurance Trust Funds.  Building on the 2011 President’s budget proposal, the Budget includes $46 million to combat misclassification, including $25 million for grants to states to identify misclassification and recover unpaid taxes and $15 million for personnel at the Wage and Hour Division to investigate misclassification.

Preserve Affordable Rental Opportunities. The Budget requests $19.2 billion for the Housing Choice Voucher program to help more than two million extremely low- to low-income families with rental assistance live in decent housing in neighborhoods of their choice. The Budget funds all existing mainstream vouchers and provides new vouchers targeted to homeless veterans, families, and the chronically homeless.  The Administration remains committed to working with the Congress to improve the management and budgeting for the Housing Choice Voucher program, including reducing inefficiencies, and re-allocating Public Housing Authority reserves based on need and performance. The Budget also provides $9.4 billion for Project-Based Rental Assistance to preserve approximately 1.3 million affordable units through increased funding for contracts with private owners of multifamily properties. This critical investment will help extremely low- to low-income households to obtain or retain decent, safe and sanitary housing.

Reduce Funding for HUD’s Largest Block Grants. The Budget reduces the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) formula program by 7.5 percent, or $300 million relative to current funding levels. CDBG grants provide funding for affordable housing development, infrastructure improvements and other community development needs.  In addition, the Budget reduces funding for the HOME Investment Partnership Program by 9.6 percent, or $175 million relative to 2010 enacted.   HOME grants provide funding to increase the supply of affordable housing.  Both were tough choices that balance the need to decrease the budget deficit with the fiscal constraints confronting State and local governments.

Expand Support for Promise Neighborhoods. the Budget includes $150 million in dedicated support for Promise Neighborhoods, modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone, which aims to improve college going rates by combining a rigorous K-12 education with a full network of supportive services in an entire neighborhood.

Revitalize Distressed Urban Neighborhoods. The Budget reflects an integrated and performance-driven approach to distressed urban neighborhoods, where the challenges tied to jobs, education, public safety, and other needs intersect and compound each other. The Budget provides $250 million for the Choice Neighborhoods initiative to continue transformative investments in high-poverty neighborhoods where distressed HUD-assisted public and privately owned housing is located, a significant increase from the 2010 enacted level.  The Budget will reach 5 to 7 neighborhoods with grants that primarily fund the preservation, rehabilitation and transformation of HUD-assisted public and privately-owned multifamily housing, and will also engage local governments, nonprofits, and for-profit developers in partnerships to improve surrounding communities.

“Obama, GOP in Different Galaxy on Budget”

Hi guys,

It’s 2012-budget day, and we know there’s going to be something for everyone (including myself) to be unhappy with. And, it’s going to get noisy today, on Left and Right and Left. My only request is that we’ll keep the spirit of conversation that we built here over the past 3 months, and will use facts and level head.

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1. Today’s schedule:

9:20 AM PBO departs the White House en route Baltimore, Maryland.
10:00 AM  
10:10 AM PBO visits a science classroom.
10:20 AM PBO delivers remarks on education and key budget priorities.
11:00 AM  
11:45 AM PBO arrives at the White House.
12:00 PM  
12:15 PM OMB Director Jack Lew and CEA Chairman Austan Goolsbee discuss the White House Budget.

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2. PBO will travel to Parkville Middle School in Baltimore where he’ll deliver remarks on the budget.

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3. Here’s Jack Lew previewing the budget:

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4. And here’s E.J. Dionne puts everything in the right perspective:

….After Obama unveils his budget proposal on Monday, it will be hard to pretend anymore that the president and House Republicans even live in the same political galaxy, let alone have a chance of reaching lots of bipartisan agreements.

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Obama’s budget, by contrast, will be a mix of cuts and increases, with the accent on policies oriented toward the future—thus that stress on new education and energy initiatives, the need to fix both our transportation and technology infrastructures, and the ways in which government can foster research, development and innovation.

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5. The party is over:

Budget to make clear that post-9/11 military spending spree has ended

The 2012 spending plan the Pentagon will deliver to Capitol Hill on Monday will feature few surprises, but it will make clear that the post-9/11 military spending spree has ended, congressional aides and analysts say.

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Gates announced in January that the White House ordered the Pentagon to cut $78 billion over five years, but added the military was able to largely offset that due to the success of his internal cost-cutting efforts.

“There is clear desire by the White House to draw down total annual defense funding — as soon as possible,” said Jim McAleese, a Virginia-based defense consultant.

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Have a great Monday, and a very happy Valentine’s Day. 🙂