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Letter to the House on the Ryan Budget

March 19, 2013

Dear Representative: 

On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association, we wish to offer our views on the multiple votes expected this week on budget resolutions for fiscal year 2014, including H. Con. Res. 25, the FY 2014 budget resolution as reported by the House Budget Committee.  

The budget should reflect the priorities of our nation. Unfortunately, H. Con. Res. 25, brought forward by Chairman Ryan, reflects the wrong priorities—by choice, it sacrifices the well-being of students, the middle class, and our most vulnerable populations to arbitrary budget targets and more deep tax cuts for the wealthiest among us. Votes associated with this issue may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 113th Congress. 

Specifically, we urge you to:

  • Vote NO on H. Con. Res. 25, presented by Chairman Ryan
  • Vote NO on the budget presented by the Republican Study Committee
  • Vote YES on the budget presented by Ranking Member Van Hollen
  • Vote YES on the budget presented by the Congressional Progressive Caucus
  • Vote YES on the budget presented by the Congressional Black Caucus  

The Ryan budget resolution takes us in the wrong direction as a nation. Specifically, we oppose: 

  • Doubling down on deep cuts to education and other non-defense programs. Spending on domestic programs is already on track to be at the lowest level as a percentage of the economy since the 1960s, but the Ryan budget resolution would make even deeper cuts. Although it ends the defense sequester, it imposes spending caps on non-defense programs for two additional years—cuts that are $700 billion below the level set by the sequester. It slashes billions of dollars in mandatory funding for Pell Grants and would allow interest rates on student loans to double this summer, despite the continued rise in college tuition. Fifty million students would bear the brunt of these cuts, including the most vulnerable—students in high-poverty communities and students with disabilities. They would face larger class sizes, less individualized attention, fewer afterschool programs, and less support for special needs.
  • Slashing Medicaid, which provides healthcare for one-third of our nation’s children. At a time when governors from both parties are working to expand healthcare benefits under this vital program, the Ryan budget resolution would cut more than $800 billion over ten years. Every day, educators see firsthand the link between access to healthcare and children’s success in school. Students struggle to learn if they do not come to school healthy. Families with access to regular healthcare are more likely to be healthy and create a better learning environment within the home.
  • Slashing funding for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. Most SNAP recipients are children or seniors. The link between good nutrition and learning is well established. The Ryan budget resolution would slash funding by $135 billion, potentially eliminating food assistance for as many as 9 million people.  
  • Voucherizing Medicare and shifting costs to seniors. Under the Ryan budget resolution, seniors would receive “premium support”—fixed payments to help buy coverage, which would likely fail to keep pace with rising healthcare costs. This approach could also lead to the gradual demise of traditional Medicare by making the pool of beneficiaries smaller, older, and sicker—and increasingly costly to cover. 
  • Repealing the Affordable Care Act. Tens of millions of Americans would lose coverage, including many students. Families with access to regular healthcare are more likely to be healthy and create a better learning environment within the home. Students struggle to learn if they do not come to school healthy.
  • Shrinking the federal workforce by ten percent by 2015. Every day, federal employees provide essential services to the American people, including educating the children of military families. Educators at Department of Defense schools already face furloughs of as many as 22 days between now and the end of the fiscal year—the equivalent of a 20 percent pay cut because of the across-the-board cuts in FY 2013. They and their students deserve better.
  • Refusing to ask the wealthiest and corporations to pay their fair share. While the Ryan budget resolution takes every opportunity to cut programs aimed at helping the least among us, it asks nothing more of wealthy individuals and corporations. Instead, tax rates for the wealthiest among us would drop from 39.6 percent to 25 percent—a $245,000 tax break for the average millionaire—and tax rates for corporations would drop from 35 percent to 25 percent.

Standing in stark contrast to the Ryan budget resolution, the alternative put forward by Ranking Member Van Hollen is a balanced, sensible approach. It would put the nation on a sound fiscal footing, protect vital programs for those in need, and invest in people, jobs and education. In particular, we are pleased that the Van Hollen budget resolution:

  • Replaces the remaining years of the sequester with a balanced approach
  • Invests in job creation, including $80 billion to hire and retain educators
  • Stops student loan interest rate from doubling this summer
  • Invests in early childhood and K-12 education
  • Fully funds SNAP
  • Protects Medicaid instead of slashing it by one-third
  • Prevents turning Medicare into a voucher program
  • Calls on wealthy individuals and big corporations to pay their fair share by closing tax loopholes and limiting other tax breaks  

The nation’s budget should ensure everyone a fair shot and make the investments necessary for economic growth. The Ryan budget resolution runs completely counter to our values as a nation. It asks children, working families, seniors, and people with disabilities to make greater sacrifices than others. It places the burden for balancing the budget squarely on the shoulders of the middle class and the poor, while failing to ask the wealthy or corporations to pay their fair share. In short, it makes a mockery of equal opportunity and shared responsibility. 

We urge you to reject the ill-conceived H. Con. Res. 25.  

Sincerely, 

Mary Kusler
Director, Government Relations