The following is a statement from Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) on the Republican Budget proposal introduced on House floor today. Media seeking more information or to speak with Smith should contact Katharine Lister at (202) 226-8454.
“Like all Americans, I believe that we must meet our most pressing priorities of protecting our country against terrorism, improving our international relations, and growing our economy. I agree with the president that these current challenges warrant small, short-term deficit spending.
“However, I am concerned about the lack of sound budgeting practices in the Republican Budget offered today. Under their plan we cannot both address our most pressing current needs, and establish a framework for a long-term, sustainable revenue and spending plan without relying on massive borrowing.
“The Republican Budget spends most of the Social Security surplus and all of the Medicare surplus, putting us in terrible position to deal with the impending entitlement crises when the baby boomers retire. Despite promises last year from both the White House and Congress to save every single dollar of the Social Security surplus and Medicare surplus, and Congress’ votes for a Social Security “lockbox” five times in the past few years, this budget uses nearly all of the Medicare and Social Security surpluses — more than 86 percent of the Social Security surplus and every penny of the Medicare surplus.
“The Republican budget also just isn’t honest - it doesn’t take into account the tax and spending programs that both Republicans and Democrats know Congress is going to pass.
“For example, the individual Alternative Minimum Tax will balloon twenty-fold by 2012, affecting 39 million households (34 percent of all taxpayers), but fixing that problem isn’t in the budget. Republicans also support making permanent last year’s tax cuts, which would cost $569 billion and Speaker Dennis Hastert plans to bring up an additional tax cut bill this spring. None of these items are in the budget.
“And in terms of spending, the White House has said that it will submit a supplemental appropriations request for defense and homeland security that will certainly be approved by Congress - but that isn’t in the budget either. They are assuming non-defense, non-homeland security discretionary spending will be kept at only five percent of the levels necessary to maintain current levels of services in 2003. We all know that’s an unrealistic projection — even under Republican control of Congress, spending has always increased on these programs.
“Another problem with the Republican Budget is that it uses the optimistic, rosy projections from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) rather than the more conservative Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections. Over the next five years, the difference between CBO and OMB revenue projections is $110.4 billion. OMB also plans on the government spending $48 billion less over the same five year period on mandatory spending programs like Medicare and veterans’ benefits. That’s a lot of ifs.
“To be perfectly honest, I don’t really care whether the numbers we use are labeled CBO, OMB or UFO, but I do believe that it’s sound budgeting practice to use more conservative numbers when you’re balancing your checkbook.
“The bottom line is that even with all of these budget tricks and gimmicks that make it look like we can have everything we want, the budget is still in deficit and our debt is still climbing. The budget deficit for next year is projected to be $46 billion, and we’ll be in deficit every year for ten years. By 2007, when the baby boomers start to retire, the government will owe more debt to the public - nearly $3.5 trillion - than it does today.
“Our federal budget needs to be more balanced and fiscally responsible than today’s Republican proposal.
“I had hoped that House Republicans would recognize the need and the real possibility for bipartisan cooperation on developing a proposal for the federal budget. If the House leadership is willing to invite more people to the table, to go to an economic conference as we’ve suggested, I am confident that we can have a federal budget that will protect the country against terrorism, lend needed support to our military, take care of workers at home, and pay for needed programs like education, healthcare and social security as well as ensuring a strong economic foundation for the future.”