In Case You Missed It . . .

March 27, 2015 at 4:03 pm

This week on Off the Charts, we focused on the congressional budget plans, federal and state taxes, health, and housing.

  • On the congressional budget plans, Robert Greenstein pointed out that despite Republicans’ anti-fraud rhetoric, the House and Senate budget plans leave out funding for “program integrity” activities that are proven to save money. David Reich noted that the plans have no plans to fix sequestration’s tight constraints on non-entitlement programs and described how both plans will dramatically cut transportation infrastructure funding.  Richard Kogan revealed that the plans each get 69 percent of their cuts to non-defense spending from programs that serve people of limited means.  Isaac Shapiro found that the plans would ultimately cut programs for low- and moderate-income people by about 40 percent.  Jessica Schubel described the Medicaid cuts that the House budget plan could force states to make.  Brandon DeBot explained how the House budget plan’s deep cuts to Pell Grants would reduce college access for low- and modest-income students.  Douglas Rice described how the House and Senate budget plans fail to fully reverse the loss of 100,000 housing vouchers due to the sequestration budget cuts.  Shannon Spillane translated the language congressional Republicans are using to make their budget plans sound benign and even positive.  We also updated our congressional budget roundup with everything you need to know about the House and Senate plans.
  • On federal and state taxes, Chuck Marr explained why the House Ways and Means Committee bill to repeal the federal estate tax on inherited wealth would create more inequality and bigger deficits and pointed out House Republicans’ misguided priorities in backing estate tax repeal. Michael Mitchell described how major tax-cutting states are looking to cut their higher education budgets further to patch their budget holes.
  • On health, Edwin Park highlighted a bipartisan House bill that permanently fixes Medicare’s flawed physician payment formula, extends the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through 2017, and makes permanent the Qualifying Individuals program, which provides premium assistance for low-income recipients. Jesse Cross-Call described how extending CHIP funding would ease pressure on states as they formulate their budgets for the next fiscal year.
  • On housing, Will Fischer explained why the Senate should quickly approve a House-passed measure to streamline rental assistance for people with fixed incomes.

This week, we released papers on the congressional budget plans’ disproportionate cuts in programs for people with limited means, proposed cuts to Pell Grants for higher education, the compromise to fix Medicare’s physician payment formula and extend CHIP, and how the Obama budget restores housing vouchers. We posted a fact sheet on  big cuts in state income taxes not yielding promised benefits and a paper on state innovations in leveraging technology for health and human services.  We updated our reports on eliminating the estate tax and ten facts you should know about the estate tax. We also updated our backgrounders on unemployment compensation and the estate tax.

CBPP’s Chart of the Week – House, Senate Budget Plans Each Get 69 Percent of Cuts From Low-Income Programs:

A variety of news outlets featured CBPP’s work and experts recently. Here are some highlights:

The Misguided Crusade to Kill the Estate Tax
US News and World Report
March 27, 2015

As the G.O.P. Promises to Address Inequality, Follow the Money
New Yorker
March 27, 2015

Why the House Republican budget plan matters
March 26, 2015

N.J. lawmakers push budget reforms year after surprise shortfall prompted Christie to slash pensions
March 24, 2015

This is no way to ease inequality
Washington Post
March 22, 2015

Join the Full Employment Project of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on March 30 for a keynote speech by former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and a discussion by leading economists about policies that can help restore and maintain full employment in U.S. labor markets. RSVP

Don’t miss any of our posts, papers, or charts — follow us on Twitter and Instagram.


House, Senate Budgets Have Big Cuts in Transportation Infrastructure

March 27, 2015 at 10:49 am

Now that the House and Senate have both passed their budget plans, here’s one more problem with them: they’d cut highway construction and other transportation infrastructure funding over the next decade by 28 percent and 22 percent, respectively, below the cost of maintaining current funding levels.  Although the plans cite the Highway Trust Fund shortfall to justify these cuts, cutting investments in highways and mass transit isn’t the right solution.

The House budget calls for cutting mandatory funding in the transportation section of the budget by almost 90 percent in 2016, from $54 billion to $6 billion, as the chart below shows. … Read more

A Congressional Budget Dictionary

March 27, 2015 at 10:03 am

Congressional Republicans are using complicated — and likely poll-tested — language to make their budget plans’ deep spending cuts and dramatic structural changes in key programs for low- and moderate-income people sound benign and even positive.

As Budget Committee member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) noted before the plans’ release, “From the standpoint of a budget, the less words of the English language you use, the better off you are.”

While it’s common practice for lawmakers to use language that puts their plans in the best possible light, it’s important to understand exactly what they mean. … Read more

Senate Should Follow House and Streamline Rental Assistance for People With Fixed Incomes

March 26, 2015 at 10:50 am

The Senate should move quickly to approve a measure that the House passed this week to reduce administrative costs for the state and local housing agencies and private owners that administer federal rental assistance, while easing compliance burdens for many low-income tenants.

The bipartisan Tenant Income Verification Relief Act (TIVRA), co-sponsored by House Financial Services Committee members Earl Perlmutter (D-CO) and Steve Stivers (R-OH), allows agencies and owners to review tenants’ incomes every three years — instead of annually — for households with fixed incomes helped by programs such as Housing Choice Vouchers, public housing, and Section 8 project-based rental assistance.… Read more

Estate Tax Repeal: A Misguided and Costly Policy

March 25, 2015 at 5:29 pm

Eliminating the federal estate tax on inherited wealth, which the House Ways and Means Committee approved today and which we’ve explained would increase deficits and inequality, is a misguided — and expensive — policy, new data show.  New cost and distributional estimates from the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) confirm that repeal would reduce revenues by $269 billion from 2016 through 2025 (adding $320 billion to deficits once the additional interest cost on the national debt is included), with the entire benefit going to the nation’s roughly 5,400 wealthiest estates.… Read more

Fixing Sequestration Is Key to Restoring Housing Vouchers and Reducing Homelessness

March 25, 2015 at 4:14 pm

With millions of renters facing unaffordable housing costs and homelessness a large problem in many areas, policymakers should fully reverse the loss of 100,000 housing vouchers due to the sequestration budget cuts.  As our new report explains, the President’s 2016 budget would finish the job Congress began in 2014 of restoring all lost vouchers.  Unfortunately, the budget plans before the House and Senate this week not only have no plan to fix sequestration; they’d impose further cuts in programs for low-income people such as housing vouchers.… Read more

House Budget Would Reduce College Access by Cutting Pell Grants

March 25, 2015 at 1:51 pm

We noted today that nearly every state is funding higher education at lower levels than before the recession, forcing tuition hikes that make college less affordable — and some states are planning more funding cuts.  The budget plan that the House is expected to approve today would likely put a college education further out of reach for many young Americans.  As our new paper explains, the budget deeply cuts Pell Grants, which help more than 8 million students from low- and modest-income families afford college.… Read more

Tax-Cut States Put Higher Ed on the Chopping Block

March 25, 2015 at 12:36 pm

With the recession behind them, many states are reinvesting in their higher education systems, though funding remains far below pre-recession levels.  A handful of states, however, have dug deeper budget holes with tax cuts — holes that they’re looking to their already beleaguered colleges and universities to help them fill.

For example:

  • No state cut higher education funding more deeply between 2008 and 2014 than Arizona, which reduced inflation-adjusted per-student spending by almost 50 percent. State lawmakers earlier this month passed a budget that further cuts higher education funding by nearly $100 million — including eliminating state support for community colleges in the state’s most populous counties.  
Read more

Congressional Budget Roundup 2015: Everything You Need to Know About the House and Senate Budget Plans

March 25, 2015 at 10:31 am

Updated March 25, 2015

The House and Senate are debating the budget resolutions that their Budget Committees approved on March 19.  Stay tuned to this page as we release analyses of the House and Senate resolutions and amendments on our website and blog.  We’ll collect everything here, including an index of all of our writings on this year’s budget resolutions at the end of the post.

Analyses related to the House and Senate Budget Plans


  • The budgets that the House and Senate will consider this week leave out the funding that the 2011 Budget Control Act specifically allows for “program integrity” activities to fight fraud and abuse in Medicare, Medicaid, and disability programs, despite the fact that these activities have a proven track record of saving money.

Read more

Despite Anti-Fraud Rhetoric, Republican Budgets Omit Funding to Combat Fraud and Abuse

March 25, 2015 at 5:00 am

The budgets that the House and Senate will consider this week leave out the funding that the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) specifically allows for “program integrity” activities to fight fraud and abuse in Medicare, Medicaid, and disability programs, despite the fact that these activities have a proven track record of saving money.  This action stands in contrast to Republican claims that their budgets will make government spending more “efficient and effective.”

Both the House and Senate budgets fail to include the $1.166 billion in funding the BCA sanctions in 2016 for reducing overpayments and fraud in the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs, and the $395 million for combatting Medicare and Medicaid fraud. … Read more

House Bill to Extend Children’s Health Funding Would Ease Pressure on States

March 24, 2015 at 2:27 pm

The House is likely to vote this week on a bipartisan compromise to permanently fix Medicare’s flawed physician payment formula (SGR) and extend federal funding and current policy for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for two years.  The continued momentum for extending CHIP funding quickly and cleanly is important not only for the millions of children who rely on the program for health coverage, but also for states and their budgets.

Six state legislative sessions have already ended, and Kentucky will become the seventh when it adjourns today. … Read more

Congressional Budgets Would Ultimately Cut Programs for Low- or Moderate-Income People by About 40 Percent

March 24, 2015 at 1:46 pm

As we’ve explained, more than two-thirds of cuts in the budget plans that the House and Senate will vote on this week come from low- and moderate-income programs, even though they represent less than one-quarter of federal program costs.  Now, let’s examine how deep those cuts would be.

In dollar terms, the plans before the House and Senate would cut low- and moderate-income programs by $3.7 trillion and $3.2 trillion, respectively, over the next decade.  The cuts would be large throughout this period but would grow over time.… Read more