WASHINGTON – Maryland Democrats criticized the Republican’s proposed $2.41 trillion budget resolution for fiscal 2005 on Wednesday, forecasting cuts in everything from veterans research to school funding in the state.
“The budget overall would have an adverse impact on our students, our families and our seniors,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, one of five state Democrats who blasted the budget resolution days before the full House is expected to take it up.
The Democrats took turns saying in a conference call that the budget would cut or freeze funding for college grants, transportation, veteran’s care and research, Head Start, Medicaid and homeland security, including bioterrorism research and port security.
“If we can’t protect our first responders . . . they can’t protect us,” said Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville, who said the budget would cut $17 million for homeland security in the state. “We live in uncertain times, and this is not the time to cut homeland security.”
But a spokesman for the House Budget Committee said that overall funding for the Department of Homeland Security would increase by more than 9 percent in 2005, and accused Democrats of using the threat of terrorism for political gain.
Maryland’s Democrats “are crossing the line between partisanship and living in fear,” said Sean Spicer, a majority staff member on the committee. “For the people of Maryland to think they are not protected is wrong.”
The Office of Management and Budget also said in its review of President Bush’s fiscal 2005 budget request that Maryland’s share of federal dollars would grow 1.51 percent overall in programs that make up more than 80 percent of the total grants given to states.
But Rep. Benjamin Cardin, D-Baltimore, said that the increase will not keep up with inflation, and that the lack of money is best illustrated with specific programs.
“You have to look at what’s there,” he said. “The growth is so small.”
Ruppersberger added that much of the money goes through the state, so the local governments that need aid do not immediately receive it.
Cardin said Democrats will offer their own budget on the floor next week during the budget debate that will include what he called adequate funding for homeland security and for the No Child Left Behind Act, while demonstrating “discipline on the tax and spending side.”
They said the Democratic plan would bring balance and fiscal responsibility back to the budget process — something the said is missing in the Republican plan that extends the president’s tax cuts while doing little to address the deficit.
“The president said the war (in Iraq) was one our children and grandchildren won’t have to pay for, but they will pay for it in more ways than one,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore.
Hoyer said that under the Bush administration’s tax cut, over 1.7 million Maryland taxpayers — nearly two-thirds of the state’s total taxpayers — would receive a tax cut of less than $100 this year.
The Democratic plan would roll back tax cuts for those making $1 million or more, said Rep. Al Wynn, D-Largo, with the resulting revenue used to fund existing programs and “put us back on a path to fiscal responsibility.”
Cardin agreed, saying the growing national deficit is “the most important factor for Marylanders (and) is the most important factor for all Americans.”
“It’s the main reason that we don’t have a budget that is fiscally responsible,” Cardin said.
But Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, noted that the budget resolution passed by the Budget Committee is a “non-binding blueprint.” It does not specifically mention any federal education programs or Medicaid, he said in a prepared statement, but recommends an additional $1 billion in federal funding in lieu of higher fees on veterans.
He said the Democrats were talking out of both sides of their mouths by wanting to decrease the federal deficit while at the same time wanting to increase program funding.
“Anyone can talk about the need to diet, but it’s hard to lose weight if you keep ordering more appetizers, side dishes and desserts,” he said. “The federal deficit can never be reduced if spending is increased in every category, but that’s what is being suggested.”
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