Georgia Suffers in Bush’s 2009 Federal Budget Proposal

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This article also contains additional reporting by Matthew Cardinale, News Editor

(APN) ATLANTA — The Bush Administration rolled out a $3.1 trillion budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2009 on February 4, 2008 that calls for increased spending on national defense and foreign aid, while calling for cuts in funding for key domestic priorities.

While Bush has received global acclaim for dramatically increasing global aid, including to Africa, a state-by-state analysis prepared by the U.S. House Budget Committee reveals Georgia is set to receive cuts across several important domestic areas in the US, including education, public safety, transportation, and housing and low-income family assistance.

Georgia could lose close to $150 million in funding for these priorities alone.

“Given the President’s legacy of not really funding social programs, I’m imaging there’s very little good news, if any, for Georgia,” Martin Matheny, Communications Director for the Democratic Party of Georgia (DPG), told Atlanta Progressive News.

“Georgia Republicans and Washington Republicans — they’re all the same,” Jane Kidd, Chair of the DPG, said in a statement obtained by APN. “Their priorities are just wrong.”

POOR HIT HARDEST

Georgia’s seniors, disabled, and other low-income citizens living in public housing could be hit the hardest.

“We are disappointed, but not surprised, by the budget for low income housing programs that President George W. Bush has sent to Congress today,” Sheila Crowley, President of the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), said in a February 4, 2008, statement. “It is a typical Bush budget, one that offers some small steps forward, while taking many steps back.”

President Bush’s budget calls for a $16 million reduction in Georgia’s share of the Public Housing Capital Fund (PHCF), which is used for repairing and modernizing public housing.

It is in this context, that Atlanta Housing Authority is arguing it does not have enough money to improve public housing, only to tear it down when matched with private investment. AHA does not acknowledge, however, its request to the City of Atlanta for $243 million to rebuild market rate housing in those sites.

While it is true Bush’s budgets have cut PHCF dollars, Atlanta Housing Authority has been given regulatory and budget flexibility through a Move-to-Work demonstration program meaning they are not limited to PHCF funds to improve public housing.

Moreover, since AHA has required residents to work full-time in 2005, rent payments from families have increased revenue to the agency to make up for Bush’s budget shortfall.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reports a national backlog of $18 billion in unmet needs for public housing repairs. The President’s proposal seeks to cut this fund nationally by 17 percent, according to the NLIHC.

Sixty Georgia communities could lose $15 million for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), which provide local funding for job creation, economic development, and affordable housing.

The President’s budget cuts CDBG by $731 million below the current level needed to maintain current services. The current CDBG funding level is currently $816 million below the 2001 level.

Georgia’s low-income families might have to turn off the heat and air conditioning next year because the 2009 budget calls for a $3.3 million reduction in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

A large number of families receiving assistance from LIHEAP have young children, seniors, or disabled citizens living in the household.

The number of families on LIHEAP has decreased every year since 2001 to only 5.8 million families or 16 percent of those eligible.

While home heating costs for the average family have risen 80 percent, according to the US Department of Energy (DOE), the Bush Administration has proposed cuts below the amount needed to maintain current services in six of the last eight years.

Bush’s budget also calls for a $1.5 million cut to the Child Care Development Block Grants in Georgia, which help provide assistance with children for low-income families.

“The [2009] HUD budget as proposed by President Bush is not based on the real needs of real people,” Crowley said. “Rather it is based on a strategy to cut as much as possible from domestic discretionary program before he leaves office.”

The NLIHC offered some other numbers for national perspective: a 27 percent cut for senior, low-income housing; a 32 percent cut for disabled housing; a 20 percent cut for the lead hazard reduction funds; and flat funding for homeless assistance grants and housing for people with AIDS.

EDUCATION AND PUBLIC SAFETY

Education in Georgia would take a hit under Bush’s new budget. The White House proposal would cut $38.8 million from career and technical education.

Georgia would lose $3.4 million in Improving Teacher Quality Grants, leaving over 15,000 Georgia children in overcrowded classrooms and without qualified teachers.

Over 20,000 children would have difficulty getting access to academic assistance, career exploration, and skills development under a proposal to cut $8.9 million from Georgia’s 21st Century Learning Centers.

“I certainly don’t want to make it sound like we’re opposing foreign aid or national defense but there are way too many cuts for things that families in Georgia need,” Matheny told APN.

Public safety in Georgia could take a hit as the new budget proposes cutting $8.4 million from Assistance to Firefighters Grants and $5 million from Bryne Justice Assistance Grants.

The cut in firefighter grants, which helps get first responders the equipment and training they need, represents a total of 93 potential individual grants to Georgia fire departments.

The $5 million cut in justice assistance grants is enough money to put 137 extra law enforcement officers on the street.

“Putting more cops on the street has been proven to prevent violent crime,” Matheny told APN. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that for every one percent increase in the number of officers on the street, violent crime decreases by 0.4 percent.

b>OTHER GEORGIA CUTS

If US Congress approves and President Bush signs his 2009 budget proposal into law, there will be plenty of other cutbacks for Georgians to deal with.

The Social Services Block Grant would lose $15.5 million, which would affect child care, child welfare services, and abuse prevention and intervention.

Georgia would lose Federal-Aid Highways Program money to the tune of $21.7 million. This program helps states improve and repair, highways, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure.

The Dislocated Worker Program is set to lose $4.5 million, which could help provide job training and placement for 1,411 Georgians. In 2005, 83 percent of Americans that participated in this program found a job within 90 days.

“This is really some pretty horrible stuff,” Matheny told APN. “We see these cuts every year out of the President. He seems to enjoy putting the burden on the working poor, the working class.”

About the author:

Jonathan Springston is a Senior Staff Writer for Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at jonathan@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

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