Week Ending March 15, 2019

Trump Budget Cuts Domestic Services, But Asks for More Tax Breaks

  • President Trump Releases 2020 Budget
  • Senate Votes to Terminate Trump’s Emergency Declaration
  • Proposals to Lower Prescription Drug Prices Reviewed
  • Congress Introduces the Equality Act of 2019
  • House Democrats Re-Introduce DACA and TPS Protections
  • Closing Loopholes That Send Jobs and Profits Out of America
  • Healthy Families Act of 2019 Introduced

President Trump Releases 2020 Budget

President Donald Trump released his 2020 budget proposal, which calls for deep cuts to domestic programs. If it becomes law, the budget would reduce access to health care, provide fewer job training opportunities, continue to underfund schools and allow infrastructure to decay, and make other cuts to public services. His budget also includes expensive new tax cuts for profitable corporations and the wealthiest Americans. AFSCME President Lee Saunders called the budget “another attempt to rig the economy further in favor of the privileged and powerful” and urged Congress to reject it and “write a new one that empowers working families and their communities.”

The president’s budget is the first step in the annual budget process. The document lays out the president’s vision for our country – how much the federal government should spend on priorities like health care, education and defense, as well as how much the government should raise in tax revenue. The budget addresses not just the coming year but also the subsequent nine, referred to as the 10-year “budget window.”

Instead of strengthening our communities with robust investments in job creation and public services, the Trump administration is calling for $2.7 trillion in domestic spending cuts over the next 10 years. The president’s budget targets state and local  programs for especially deep cuts. Enactment of the president’s budget would result in widespread job losses for AFSCME members and significant damage to the programs on which our communities rely. Adding insult to injury, Trump’s budget calls for more than $1 trillion in new tax cuts for profitable corporations and the wealthiest Americans – even though these groups got a $1.9 trillion windfall from the president’s 2017 tax cut. The Trump budget is a plan to put more money in the pockets of the already wealthy, paid for by gutting the programs that the American people rely on.

Trump’s proposal includes deep cuts to discretionary programs (those whose funding levels are determined by Congress yearly). It proposes cutting non-defense discretionary programs by $54 billion in 2020, a 9 percent reduction from 2019. It increases funding for the departments of Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs, but cuts programs supporting the work of AFSCME members.

The president’s budget cuts funding for the:

  • Department of Education by $8.5 billion (12 percent), compromising students’ access to education and needed services by cutting funds for school employees, including AFSCME members who are classroom assistants, school librarians, reading specialists, school bus drivers, food service workers, clerical and custodial and maintenance staff.
  • 29 education programs would be eliminated, including Title II, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, and programs that support after-school enrichment opportunities. No additional funds are provided for Title I or IDEA for students with disabilities. This would force states and local school districts to pick up the shortfall. It also cuts funding for student aid, work-study programs, adult education and other education priorities.
  • Department of Health and Human Services by $12.1 billion (12 percent), hurting AFSCME-represented health care workers, including nurses, behavioral health care workers, emergency service workers, aides, dieticians and food service workers, custodians, technicians, physician assistants, therapists, doctors, pharmacists and administrative staff who provide care for millions of Americans in hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities and other settings. It would also affect AFSCME public health and social workers who ensure that children, individuals with disabilities and individuals with mental health and substance use disorders have access to the care and support that they need.
    • Numerous health programs addressing autism, newborn hearing, emergency services for children, pediatric mental health, maternal depression and other public health issues would be terminated. The budget eliminates or significantly cuts programs supporting medical education, including loan forgiveness for nurses. It drastically reduces funding for research into cancer, drug abuse, Alzheimer’s and other diseases and public health issues. It promotes a $1 billion increase for child care outside of Child Care and Development Block Grant focused on the private sector.
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development by $8.6 billion (16 percent), hurting AFSCME members who make sure people in their communities have access to safe and affordable housing.
    • The Public Housing Capital Fund, the Community Development Block Grant and other programs that play a critical role in ensuring access to safe and affordable housing would be zeroed out.
  • Department of Labor is cut by $1.2 billion (10 percent), hurting AFSCME members who administer our unemployment insurance programs. It would also hurt AFSCME members who run job training and employment services programs.
    • Several workforce development programs would be eliminated and funding for job programs for disadvantaged youth would be slashed. 
  • Department of Transportation by $5.9 billion (22 percent), hurting AFSCME members who design, build, maintain and operate our nation’s streets, highways, airports, public transportation systems, parking facilities and ports. It would also impact AFSCME members who maintain our buses and rapid transit trains, plow our roads, inspect bridges, highways and tunnels and direct traffic.
    • Several transportation programs would be cut, with especially deep cuts to programs that support public transportation infrastructure and capital investments.

The president’s budget also includes deep cuts to mandatory programs (those that are automatically funded each year unless Congress makes changes). Many of the biggest federal programs are “mandatory,” including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Other mandatory programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) and unemployment insurance. The president’s budget:

  • Cuts more than $700 billion from Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) over 10 years. The budget repeals the ACA. In addition to rolling back the expansion of Medicaid and eliminating the subsidies that help people afford health care, ACA repeal would also eliminate the protections for pre-existing conditions that prevent insurance companies from denying Americans health insurance coverage. The budget also places a funding cap on the remaining Medicaid program, which would shift an increasing proportion of the cost of Medicaid to states, severely straining state budgets and likely forcing cuts to other programs. 
  • Cuts numerous programs that support struggling families, including stripping hundreds of billions of dollars in funding from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Social Security Disability Insurance, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Social Services Block Grant program.

What you Need to Know: On the heels of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, this was the moment for a consensus-seeking budget that would unite us around core values, that would ensure continuity and new investments in public services, and would not jeopardize the paychecks of hardworking government employees and contractors. Instead, the president continues to take the most divisive route possible. AFSCME will work with Congress to ensure that the extraordinarily damaging proposals in the president’s budget proposal are rejected. 

Senate Votes to Terminate Trump’s Emergency Declaration

Four weeks after the House voted to terminate Trump’s national emergency declaration for the southern border, the Senate voted in a bipartisan fashion to do the same, solidly rejecting Trump’s declaration by a vote of 59 to 41, with 12 Republicans defecting. Trump’s declaration called for pulling $7 billion from the Defense Department and $600 million from the Treasury Department to build his border wall. The majority in Congress sees the president’s declaration as a violation of the Constitution. Article 1 grants the power to make spending decisions to the legislative branch.

What You Need to Know: In an act of defiance, President Trump issued the first veto of his presidency on Friday, rejecting this congressional action. Despite solid opposition in the House and Senate, neither chamber is expected to reach the two-thirds majority support required to override a presidential veto. 

Proposals to Lower Prescription Drug Prices Reviewed

A House health panel has launched an effort to lower prescription drug prices for all Americans by increasing market competition of generics. Regardless of whether people get their health coverage through employer-sponsored insurance, Medicare, Medicaid or other sources, drug prices are too high.

The committee is considering three bills to make drug prices more affordable. H.R. 965 and H.R. 985 would stop manipulation by brand name drug companies to block competition from generic versions of their drugs. These bills would increase the number of tools stakeholders have to end stalling tactics by the makers of brand name drugs. For example, some brand name companies refuse to provide samples of their products for tests to determine if generic equivalents can receive FDA approval. Or the brand name makers refuse to cooperate with generic companies to develop required shared safety procedures for both brand name and generic versions of a drug. H.R. 1499 would make it illegal for brand name and generic drug companies to enter into “pay-for-delay” agreements. As their patents are about to end, brand name drug companies use these anticompetitive backroom deals to keep lower-priced generic equivalents from patients.

What You Need to Know: Congress knows that there is no limit on prescription drug prices and that drug companies have gone unchecked for too long. AFSCME supports these proposals to lower prescription drug prices for all Americans by increasing competition between generic drugs and brand name drugs.

Congress Introduces the Equality Act of 2019

“The Equality Act of 2019” was introduced on March 13. This legislation prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, credit and the jury system. Without this bill, LGBTQIA Americans would lack basic legal protections in states across the country. The current patchwork of laws leaves millions of people subject to uncertainty and potential discrimination.

What You Need to Know: “The Equality Act” would amend existing civil rights law – including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act, and several other laws regarding federal employment. Everyone should have a fair chance to earn a living and provide a home for their families without fear of harassment or discrimination. AFSCME endorses this bill and is working hard to help get it passed in the House and Senate. 

House Democrats Re-Introduce DACA and TPS Protections

House Democrats renewed efforts to address pressing immigration issues by reintroducing legislation to protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Temporary Protection Status (TPS) holders and DREAMers. In 2017, Trump rescinded the DACA program, which jeopardized protections for DREAMers. While court injunctions have temporarily permitted DREAMers to renew, Congress must resolve this uncertainty. The Trump administration also began sunsetting protections for TPS holders without fully considering economic and life-threatening problems in their countries.

The “Dream and Promise Act of 2019” (H.R. 6), introduced by Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-California), Nydia Velazquez (D-New York) and Yvette Clarke (D-New York), provides a pathway to citizenship for eligible DREAMers, DACA and TPS holders. First, it provides conditional permanent residence for 10 years; second, it grants Lawful Permanent Residency (LPR) for those who meet educational, employment or military requirements; and third, it provides a pathway for people in these three groups to apply for U.S. citizenship after five years of LPR status as per current law.

What You Need to Know: AFSCME continues to support and urge permanent relief and a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers, DACA and TPS holders. The bill was introduced with more than 200 co-sponsors in the House and is likely to pass there. The GOP-controlled Senate is likely to continue opposition as it has followed the president’s lead on the issue. 

Closing Loophole That Sends Jobs and Profits Out of America 

The “No Tax Breaks for Outsourcing Act,” (S. 780 and H.R. 1711) which close an unfair tax break benefitting multinational corporations that send jobs overseas, was reintroduced in the Senate and House. This bill would help level the playing field for domestic companies and American workers who play by the rules. It would equalize tax rates for profits booked abroad and in America, eliminate the federal tax deduction on profits earned on overseas investments and end the tax break for income from foreign oil and gas extraction. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that corporations shift about $300 billion in profits out of the U.S. annually and that the 2017 tax break package allows corporations to avoid paying taxes on annual profits of about $235 billion. This bill would raise tens of ­billions of dollars, which could be invested more effectively to enhance America’s schools, health care, public housing, job training or other vital public services. More information on these bills is here.

What You Need to Know:  AFSCME and 13 other national labor unions endorse this bill.

Healthy Families Act of 2019 Introduced

On March 14, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) introduced the “Healthy Families Act” (HFA) of 2019, which ensures that working people can earn job-protected paid sick days. It gives businesses with 15 or more employees the opportunity to let their workers earn up to seven paid sick days each year to care for themselves or for their children or family members.

What You Need to Know:  Many workers are struggling to balance the demands of their jobs and their families. Too many are forced to choose between their health and their jobs when they become ill. This is especially true for minimum wage workers whose pay has not kept up with inflation and who don’t have job-protected health care benefits. When a sickness or health problem arises, these challenges often become insurmountable. American workers deserve the opportunity to work and live without the crippling weight of this choice on their shoulders. That’s why AFSCME endorses this legislation.

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