Union strives to keep NYS jobs, services afloat in federal budget soup
By SHERRY HALBROOK
The federal budget is a murky and treacherous brew at best, and trying to spot and stop trouble while the congressional cooks are still in the kitchen is a feat that not even Emeril or an “iron chef” would attempt.
Opponents put up a tough fight, but President Bush’s 2005-06 budget squeaked through both the House and Senate pretty much intact. And while that is just the “broad strokes” version and months of more haggling over detailed appropriations bills lie ahead, PEF members are already feeling the pain.
Both the state Labor Department (DOL) and the city of Albany Housing Authority are blaming the anticipated federal budget cuts for local belt-tightening that’s left some PEF members fighting potential layoffs, forced transfers and demotions.
(See related articles page 10.)
“PEF is already working hard to protect our members at DOL in New York City and at the Albany Housing Authority,” said PEF President Roger Benson, “but this is just the opening skirmish in a battle that threatens to hurt many more of our members if we fail to head off some of the budget blunders being made in Washington.”
After the congressional stalemate over Medicaid cuts broke in late April, the Republican leadership pushed its budget agreement through the House 214-211 and the Senate 52-47.
Deep cuts in both mandatory spending programs set by statute and the annually appropriated or discretionary spending programs over the next five years are being used to pay for substantial new tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other increases in funding for defense and international programs.
The $212 billion in cuts over five years in domestic spending — for such programs as education, veterans’ health care, environmental protection and housing — and another $34.7 billion in cuts to Medicaid and other programs for low-income people in this country will be more than offset by $106 billion in new tax cuts (lowering taxes on stock dividends and other investment income) and an increase of $186 billion in military and other spending abroad.
The budget agreement is expected to boost the national debt by $168 billion over the next five years.
The budget battles will now be fought in congressional committees working to hammer out reconciliation bills to actually implement the budget agreement. Since the federal fiscal year officially begins October 1, final voting on these contentious issues will likely come in the fall, but could take longer in some cases.
LOOKING OUT FOR LABOR — U.S. Rep. John R. Kuhl (left) talks with PEF Reg. 3 Coord. Frank Besser about federal funding for labor. — Photo by Jan Beutner
Way to go
So far, the most appetizing aroma coming out of Washington is from the TEA pot.
H.R. 3, the Transportation Equity Act (TEA), could provide $284 billion to $295 billion for highway, bridge, rail and other public “surface” transportation projects throughout New York and other states.
On May 17, the Senate passed its version of the legislation, which would provide $295 billion over six years. The vote was 89-11, but Bush has threatened to veto the bill which tops the $284 billion approved by the House by $11 billion.
Senators defend the additional spending and say they identified ways to pay for the extra $11 billion without adding to the national debt.
According to the PEF Legislative Department, the bill that overwhelmingly passed in the House of Representatives provides a 42 percent funding hike for highways, transit, and safety programs compared to the previous six-year bill.
New York State could receive as much as $10.5 billion in federal highway money over the next six years under the House transportation package. That’s up approximately $2 billion from the previous six year package, even though the total percentage of funding for New York is down. New York would get $16.8 billion under the Senate bill.
“An almost identical bill was approved last year, but did not become law because of veto threats by President Bush over the funding level in the bill,” said PEF political organizer and lobbyist John Murphy. “This year’s bill has been scaled down significantly, but still the president has threatened a veto because it would allow additional spending at a later date.”
PEF supports the proposed increase in funding for TEA-21 and the elimination (in the House version) of Amendment 32 (Design-Build Amendment) regarding the use of private contractors for both engineering/design and building work.
It will be up to a joint House and Senate appropriation committee to negotiate the differences between the two bills. Rep. Sherwood Boehlert of NY is expected to take part in those negotiations.
Where’s the meat?
The House approved its Workforce Investment Act (WIA) bill (H.R. 27) on March 2.
PEF supports continued adherence to the provisions of the Wagner-Peyser Act.
PEF opposes any effort in the Senate to adopt the Bush administration’s “WIA-Plus” proposal to consolidate the Wagner-Peyser Act, WIA Adult, WIA Dislocated Worker and WIA Youth funding streams into a single consolidated federal block grant.
The Bush proposal would also give governors the option to consolidate additional funding programs including those for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) training, vocational rehabilitation and veterans’ employment programs.
Anticipating the loss of federal funding, the NYS DOL has already announced plans to close a call center in New York City and force PEF members and other employees to move upstate or take other jobs.
Benson has written to Schumer and Sen. Hillary Clinton urging them to oppose this legislation unless amendments are adopted to delete the block grant, PRA demonstration and religious-based discrimination provisions, and to preserve the Wagner-Peyser Act.
Smaller bites are better
The FY 2006 Budget Resolution that Congress passed April 28, restored funding that will allow the coming appropriations bills to fund the Community Service Block Grant (CSBG), Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), and 16 other community and economic development programs.
The president’s budget proposal to consolidate this funding could cost 21 jobs in the Community Services Block Grant Program administered by PEF members at the NYS Department of State.
Benson also wrote to Schumer and Clinton, as well as the NY delegation in the House, urging the continuation of the current Community Services Block Grant funding.
Left out in the cold
Throughout the country, public housing authorities have been notified that new rule changes regarding the abandonment of “allowable expense” levels in favor of “project expense” levels for FY 2006 could cost them up to a third of their federal funding.
This is part of the continuing move to project-based management and project-based accounting under the Bush Administration.
Bush proposes to allocate a set dollar amount to local housing authorities, including the Albany Housing Authority, instead of the demand–driven system currently in use. Bush would shift some of the funding into a program to help first-time home buyers with the initial costs of purchasing a home.
This decrease in funding could cost some PEF members their jobs at the Albany Housing Authority, where spending cuts are already being made.
Communicator June 2005
Inside This Issue
Rally to end mandatory OT
- Building momentum every day
- Assemblyman leading the charge
- Senator pushes accountability bill
Retirees In Action
Membership Benefits &Travel
Members unite to stop
tries to keep services afloat
honored at Somos El Futuro
Taking action to stop funding cuts
SBUH members flying air rescue
Extension for parole pistol permits
Elections held for E- Board
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