As Congress prepares to act on President Obama’s budget this week, the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of the budget deficit has created new pressure to reduce spending. Fifteen Senators, and a number of House members, have already suggested that Congress must reduce spending significantly below the levels that President Obama requested.
But Iowans need to be aware that reducing spending on domestic appropriations could make this recession longer and hurt our environment while doing very little to reduce the long term deficit.
As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities warns policy makers:
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They should not make the recession, which CBO now projects will be the worst since World War II, even deeper by reducing federal expenditures in 2010 well below the levels that President Obama has proposed. Doing so would result in less demand for goods and services at a time when the CBO report makes clear the economy will continue to need a large boost.
Moreover, President Obama’s budget calls for a dramatic increase in funding for clean water, $3.9 billion in 2010 alone, at a time when Iowa desperately needs to invest in water upgrades. In Iowa alone, the Department of Natural Resources estimates water infrastructure needs to be over $618 million over the next two to three years.
According to Susan Heathcote, water program director for the Iowa
Environmental Council, forty-one communities in Iowa do not have a public sewer system and many other communities need help to upgrade their sewer systems and drinking water systems.
While the recent economic recovery legislation provides some funds for water infrastructure, Heathcote estimates that at best that will meet only about half of Iowa’s water infrastructure needs.
This week, Congress will draft a budget blueprint for spending in the year ahead—and the full House and Senate is expected to vote on it next week. In order to make the important new investments in clean water requested by the President, Congress needs to adopt a budget blueprint that permits appropriations at the level requested by President Obama. As a member of the Senate Budget Committee, Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has the opportunity to play a significant role in ensuring Iowans get the federal funding we need for environmental programs. We urge him to support and adopt a budget blueprint with appropriations levels that will do just that.
Unfortunately, a number of Senators have expressed concerns with the President’s recommendation, and Representatives are suggesting that appropriations levels should only keep pace with inflation. But domestic appropriations did not cause the federal budget deficit, and reducing domestic appropriations spending below the President’s request cannot begin to resolve it, either. Domestic appropriations have grown only slightly faster than inflation over the last 8 years, and much slower than growth in our economy. Other parts of the budget grew much faster. In order to solve the budget deficit, Congress will have to address the real causes of the deficit.