Georgians stand to lose a lot if the president’s proposed budget released this week is approved. Not only does the plan jeopardize Georgia’s fiscal stability, it also would diminish the ability of millions of Georgians to meet basic living standards, such as putting food on the table, maintaining a roof over their heads and accessing health care.
Nearly 31 percent of Georgia’s 2017 budget relies on federal funds, and the state is consistently among the most reliant on federal funding. Only seven states depend more on federal funds to support core safety net programs, supplement education funding, child welfare, elder services, health care and much, much more. More than 2 million Georgians including 1.3 million children receive health coverage from Medicaid, and federal taxpayers cover two-thirds of that cost. About 1.6 million Georgians rely on critical food assistance programs, and the federal government pays the entire bill. An additional $2.4 billion in federal money provides support services to Georgia’s K-12 students and another $1.6 billion helps fix our roads and bridges.
That is why it is particularly worrisome here in Georgia to be faced with such a radical budget proposal.
The president’s budget proposal slashes nutrition, health care, and other important assistance that helps millions of Georgians. At the same time it hands new tax breaks to the wealthy and dramatically increases defense spending. It also proposes a massive cost shift to the state of Georgia and is likely to force deep cuts to programs relied on by nearly every Georgian. Those range from food assistance, to health care to neighborhood revitalization, education and just about every service in between.
Here are some ways the president’s proposed budget places Georgians at risk:
- It slashes food assistance for poor children and their parents by cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by $193 billion over ten years. The cut targets the elderly, working families and workers struggling to find a job and shifts the cost of more than $100 billion in food stamp benefits, long known as a bipartisan federal responsibility, to states.
- It cuts $600 billion from Medicaid over ten years. This is on top of the deep cuts in Medicaid and subsidies for private coverage already included in the House-passed bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. These additional cuts most likely mean an increase in uninsured Georgians and a significant shift of Medicaid costs to Georgia. That’s on top of the $4 billion cost shift to the state over ten years already in the House health bill.
- It cuts $72 billion from programs that serve people with disabilities and their families, including Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. These provide income assistance to the poor, including children with disabilities. Proposing this cut breaks the president’s promise not to cut Social Security. Last December 259,000 Georgians relied on Supplemental Security Income, a group of poor workers and children with disabilities. Another 285,000 Georgians count on Social Security Disability Insurance, which protects workers whose careers are shortened by severe medical impairments.
At the same time, the president is proposing massive tax cuts largely for the wealthy and corporations likely to cost several trillion dollars over the coming decade. The budget relies on an unrealistic economic assumption of sustained 3 percent growth in the coming years, a target that most mainstream economists find highly implausible. This and other gimmicks and accounting tricks mask the fact that the proposed tax cuts are likely to cause deficits and debt to soar.
Hundreds of thousands of people in Georgia communities from Blue Ridge to Bainbridge already struggle to make ends meet. Many are able to manage thanks to lifelines like food assistance, Medicaid coverage or Social Security’s disability benefits. Cutting spending at levels anything close to what’s contemplated in this week’s proposal will create a budget crisis for Georgia as a whole and callously inflict pain on people most in need of aid and comfort. It’s hard to think of a more terrible legacy than that for anyone who votes for this disaster.