The President’s Budget: A Focus on Women and Families
The White House released its Fiscal Year 2011 budget proposal Feb. 1. The proposed budget makes investments critical to the economic future of women and families. According to White House spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield, “we’re looking at a lot of significant funding increases for women’s programs in a year when the president has ordered a three-year, non-security, discretionary spending freeze.”
The Obama Administration’s Federal Budget for 2011 proposes $3.834 trillion in spending for the year. The projected yearly deficit, at $1.267 trillion, would be lower than the $1.556 trillion deficit of 2010. The plan would result in a projected $1.2 trillion deficit reduction over the following 10 years, before accounting for savings from reduced war spending. The next 10 years would also include $300 billion in tax cuts for families, individuals, and businesses.
The President’s budget seeks to support women and families with the tools for success in the 21st Century by outlining a “modest increase” for fifteen programs that impact women and girls. These include The Title X regional training organization’s budget request for $327 million. Funding for sex education and teen pregnancy prevention also increases, with a $129 million initiative that targets grants to community-based and faith-based organizations using “evidence-based models that have been proven to work” and will “fund and rigorously evaluate programs that are promising but not yet proven.”
Last year over a half-million non-fatal violent incidents were committed against women, according to Attorney General Eric Holder. To enhance responsiveness the FY 2011 budget requests for Family Violence Prevention and Services, battered women’s shelters, and the Domestic Violence Hotline have all been increased. In addition, the domestic violence and sexual assault programs budget is increased by $117 million over current levels to $535 million, a 22 percent increase. Recognizing the downward spiral of low-income supports, the budget includes “$8.1 billion in food-aid for low-income children and pregnant women, infants and children up to 5 years old and $3.9 billion for childcare and Head Start meals.”
The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) would receive funds amounting to a 20% total increase above 2009 levels. To minimize potential harm to veterans caused by budget delays, $50.6 billion would be set aside in advance appropriations for the VA medical care program and includes funding to meet the special needs of women veterans for health care, specialized counseling services, and also outreach and reintegration services for homeless women veterans. “The VA estimates about 10 percent of all homeless veterans are women.”
The 2011 budget reflects the Administration’s intent to “move the nation from recession to recovery by sparking job creation to get millions of Americans back to work and building a new foundation for the long term prosperity for all American families.” To accomplish this, $100 billion is budgeted for job-creating investments. Of the $100 billion, $33 billion funds a new Small Business Jobs and Wages Tax Cut, to increase wages and hiring levels.
Other Budget Changes
The Making Work Pay Tax Credit, affecting 110 million families, would be extended for another year. The child-care tax break would increase. Capital gains taxes from new investments in small businesses would be eliminated.
The budget also sets up a competitive grants program for states to offer paid family leave for families that can’t afford to use unpaid family leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. The grants, to be established at the discretion of each state, will be managed by the Department of Labor. Only a few states currently make such state-paid leave available.
The budget requests resources to promote affordable housing ownership and foreclosure assistance through a Department of Housing and Urban Development administered $88 million, housing counseling program, and $113 million for foreclosure prevention through the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation.
Education would receive notable spending increases. Programs of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) would receive $28 billion. This is a $3 billion increase, and an additional $1 billion is possible if Congress overhauls the Act. The President’s Race to the Top challenge requested $1.4 billion, which will restructure elements of No Child Left Behind, and a $17 billion increase in Pell Grant funding is requested to start in 2010.
Defense spending requests remain significant, despite projections for long-term decreases. “Overseas contingency operations,” which include strategic plans for Afghanistan and Pakistan, would get $33 billion of supplementary funding for 2010, and $159.3 billion for 2011. The Department of Defense would spend $8.8 billion on family support programs, a 3% increase over 2010. At $43.6 billion,
Department of Homeland Security funding would receive a 2 % increase, with $734 million being spent on Advanced Image Technology screening machines for airports and checkpoints.
A $52.8 billion budget request for the State Department represents an increase in development assistance. Secretary Clinton has noted that the empowerment of women stands at the core of these efforts. The $4.9 billion overall budget increase strengthens civilian-run democratic institutions and infrastructure in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as global development, health, humanitarian and economic assistance programs all over the world.
While the non-security discretionary spending freeze would be in effect for three years, entitlement programs Medicaid, Medicare, and social security would be exempt. The freeze is projected to save $250 billion over ten years. Another $20 billion would be saved by terminating or reducing over 120 government programs.
To generate another $90 billion in savings over the next decade, the Administration proposes a Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee to be levied on the largest financial institutions. This would be seen as repayment for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which used government money to buy assets and equity from these same large institutions to prevent collapse of the nation’s financial sector. It is believed the fees could hinder dangerous future financial risk-taking.
Eliminating the beneficial tax status currently afforded to oil, coal, and gas companies would yield $40 billion and permitting expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts to households with more than $250,000 in income would generate $678 billion.
President Obama signed “pay-as-you-go” legislation into law Feb. 12. The law addresses the escalating debt situation by raising the ceiling on federal debt to $14.3 trillion, and prohibiting spending from increasing the federal deficit. Increased spending or decreased revenue must be offset by spending cuts or increased revenue.
Women advocates see “promise in [the] budget blueprint,” because “in the context of the freeze on overall domestic discretionary spending, President Obama has made programs serving women and children a priority.”
Action: Watch the Budget Process
April 1: Senate Budget Committee reports budget resolution to Congress.
June 10: The Appropriations bills are sent to the House and Senate floors for a vote.
June 30: After two versions of the Appropriations bills are passed, a conference is held between the House and Senate to formulate one version of the bills. Then the Conference agreement is sent to the House and Senate floor for a final vote.
October 1: Fiscal year begins.
Write or call your legislator to say you want a budget that supports women and families.
Dial 202-224-3121 to reach the Capitol Switchboard.
Read The Book of Resolutions 2008 # 4111 Enabling Financial Support for Domestic Programs ( pg. 610) and # 4115 Negative Implications of U.S. Deficit Spending (pg. 617)