The Democratic Budget Resolution, as reported out of the Senate Committee on Budget on March 6, provides a blueprint to more effectively address terrorist threats, works to rebuild the readiness and future strength of our overstretched military, and honors our commitment to our nation?s service members and veterans, while also ensuring disaster preparedness and fight crime at home.
The Democratic budget rejects the Bush Administration?s irresponsible and harmful cuts to critical programs for first responders, state and local law enforcement, and veteran?s health care as well as proposed fee increases for veterans and military retirees. By reversing these misguided proposals and investing in key priorities, the Democratic Budget Resolution will make America safer and more effectively advance our national security.
A Plan For Enhancing America?s National Security By Working to Restore Our Military, Honoring Our Servicemen and Women, and Caring for Our Wounded Warriors
The Democratic budget would work to enhance our military readiness, refocus our efforts on the fight against al Qaeda, and bolster support for service members and their families. Our budget would fully fund the President?s defense budget request, and also fund the President?s $70 billion Fiscal Year 2009 war request and assume the enactment of the pending Fiscal Year 2008 request for operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the war on terrorism. While the President?s war budget request for Fiscal Year 2009 would only partially fund the Bush strategy for a long-term commitment Iraq, the $70 billion allocation would more accurately reflect the Democratic vision for securing Iraq and redirecting our focus on al Qaeda and the war on terrorism. The Democratic Budget Resolution also provides for a 3.4 percent pay raise for military personnel.
The Democratic budget would reject more than $18 billion over five years in new fees for veterans and military retirees. For the sixth year in a row, the President?s budget included legislative proposals that would substantially increase health care fees for Priority 7 and 8 veterans, so-called ?middle income? veterans whose annual earnings are as low as $28,000. The Democratic budget rejects these harmful fees that would call on veterans to pay more out of their own pockets for health care. Additionally, the budget rejects the President?s proposals for new TRICARE enrollment fees and deductibles for military retirees under the age of 65.
The Democratic budget provides a $3.2 billion increase over the Bush budget to ensure first-rate care for our nation?s veterans. The Budget Resolution would provide a total of $48.2 billion in discretionary funding for veterans programs for Fiscal Year 2009, including $3.2 billion in additional funding above the President?s request to ensure that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has sufficient resources to meet the needs of all our nation?s veterans, including the servicemen and women returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan and also restore irresponsible funding cuts included in the President?s budget proposal. Our budget builds upon the last year?s Democratic budget resolution that provided the largest funding increase in the history of the Veterans Administration.
The Democratic budget would advance initiatives to better care for wounded warriors. Our budget supports efforts to implement fully the provisions of The Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act (included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008) to facilitate and improve the care and rehabilitation of wounded service members, and also provide for seamless transition from the Department of Defense to the Department of Veterans Affairs, and transition from military service to civilian life.
A Plan For Fighting Crime And Protecting Our Homeland From Terrorism and Natural Disasters
The Democratic budget rejects the President?s proposed funding cuts for vital disaster preparedness and terrorism response programs. The President?s budget called for reducing funding for homeland security grants to first responders and state and local governments by $1.9 billion, or 48 percent, from Fiscal Year 2008. The Democratic budget would provide sufficient funding to restore these critical programs at the Fiscal Year 2008 enacted level, adjusted for inflation. Specifically, the Democratic budget would:
- Ensure that our firefighters, emergency medical workers, and other front line responders have the resources and cutting-edge technology they need. The Democratic Budget Resolution reverses the Bush Administration?s proposed cuts to critical state and local grants, including a 79 percent cut in funding for the State Homeland Security Program (SHSGP), a 33 percent cut in funding for Emergency Management Performance Grants (EMPG), and a 60 percent cut in funding for Fire Act Grants. It also would reverse the President?s proposal to eliminate funding for the Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS) grants.
- Bolster funding for interoperable communications. While the Bush budget called for eliminating Interoperable Emergency Communications grants, the Democratic plan would provide $200 million for these programs to ensure that our first responders are able to effectively communicate in the event of a terrorist attack or natural disaster.
- Provide increased funding to better secure American ports and transit systems. Our budget would reverse the Administration?s dangerous cuts to other priority homeland security grant programs, including the Bush proposal to reduce port security grants by 47.5 percent and slash rail and transit security grants by 56 percent.
The Democratic budget rejects the President?s proposed cuts in law enforcement initiatives. For the sixth year in a row, the Bush Administration proposed drastic funding reductions and eliminations for state and local law enforcement grant programs in the Department of Justice. Despite these programs? successes in drastically reducing violent crime in the 1990s, the Bush Administration has cut critical programs like the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (Byrne/JAG) by $1.7 billion since 2001. In 2005, the country reaped the consequences of this irresponsible policy when, according to FBI estimates, violent crime increased significantly for the first time in years. State and local law enforcement agencies have responded by urging the President and Congress to reinvest in traditional crime fighting at the federal level, especially in this period of economic downturn when local budgets have tightened.
Last year, the Democratic-led Congress answered this call for help by funding state and local law enforcement programs at $2.6 billion for Fiscal Year 2008. President Bush, however, responded by proposing to cut these programs by $1.6 billion, or by 63 percent, in Fiscal Year 2009, including eliminating funding for COPS and Byrne/JAG. The Democratic budget would reject this irresponsible proposal by investing in the law enforcement programs that keep our streets safe from crime, foreign or domestic.