Thursday, February 24, 2005

Bush Budget Hits South Hard

Bush Budget Hits South Hard

Recent studies ( by budget
and policy groups shed new light on how President Bush's new budget
could devastate state economies. According to the Center on Budget and
Policy Priorities, one-third of President Bush's proposed $5.9 billion cut
in overall domestic discretionary funding in 2006 would come from cuts
to programs that provide funding to states and localities. But many
states " are ill-prepared to absorb such cuts
( ." For example, 26 states already
facing 2006 budget deficits would be forced to absorb $32 billion worth
of additional budget shortfalls. Many of the hardest hit states would
be in the American South, the focus of a major conference
( -- co-hosted by the Center for
American Progress -- beginning tonight in Chapel Hill. The conference
will focus on critical issues facing the South and include progressive
leaders ( from several
states that could be hit hard by the president's budget. Look for
updates from the conference on Think Progress
( .

NORTH CAROLINA: In North Carolina, where the conference on Southern
progress will be held, President Bush's budget proposal includes cuts of
$198.8 million ( for
discretionary grants to state and local governments. North Carolina is
already facing a projected $1.2 billion shortfall
( in
revenue and struggling to finance hurricane relief. President Bush has
responded by slashing federal money for railroads, police programs and
Medicaid, as well as endorsing massive cuts in funds for community
development grants used to "rehabilitate older homes, pay for after-school
programs and provide housing for people in unsafe homes
( ." He
also wants to eliminate a key public housing program, HOPE VI
( , which enabled the state to
rebuild public housing complexes
( in
Raleigh and Durham. According to the Charlotte Observer, the cuts will
force local governments to " cut services or raise taxes
( ."

GEORGIA: On Friday, Georgia State Senator Sam Zamarripa will address
the Southern Conference. His state would also be hit hard by Bush's
proposed budget cuts. Georgia would lose $297.6 million
( in discretionary
grants, with education funding hit especially hard. State programs
connected to No Child Left Behind would be underfunded by $366.8 million
( and Georgia would be one of
eleven states to lose 75 percent or more
( of its federal
adult education funding. Included in that cut would be the Even Start
family literacy program -- Bush said it was " abundantly clear
( " the
program wasn't working, but education officials in Georgia say that's "
simply not true
( ." The
program "doubles young readers' chance of success in Georgia and has
helped parents improve their job skills."

TENNESSEE: Another Southern state, Tennessee, could be among the
hardest hit by the president's proposed budget. The state is slated to lose
$303.9 million ( in
discretionary grants, including $37.3 million for community and
economic development and $3.2 million for low-income home energy assistance
(LIHEAP). Health care and public housing were hit hard in the Volunteer
State. According to FamiliesUSA, the budget would cost Tennessee $1.2
billion over 10 years in Medicaid funding, affecting " thousands of
Tennessee children and senior citizens
." In Memphis, local officials are concerned that "huge cuts" to HOPE VI
and other federal housing programs will " severely curtail
" plans to rehabilitate several older and decrepit neighborhoods.