ThinkProgress has chronicled the ways in which the House Republican budget, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), targets programs that benefit the poor and middle class to find most of its spending cuts, even as it gives the rich and corporations $3 trillion in tax breaks. The budget also would hit America’s middle class in another way: by decimating state and local budgets, as a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities details.
The budget’s cuts to federal discretionary spending would cause reductions in the amount the federal government contributes to state and local governments, causing deep cuts to state programs that deal with transportation, education, housing, public safety, and the environment, according to CBPP. Those decreases would be even bigger than the reductions caused by the Budget Control Act, the bipartisan debt limit deal reached last summer that sets caps on federal spending levels. Under the GOP budget, federal funding to states would be reduced to less than half its historical average, CBPP found:
As difficult as the current spending caps will be for states and localities, the Ryan budget would impose much deeper cutbacks. Since 1976, federal discretionary funding to states and localities has averaged 1.4 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). By 2021, the Ryan budget would reduce this funding to about 0.6 percent of GDP, less than half the historical average and well below the BCA caps.
The GOP budget would cut Medicaid funding for states by 34 percent by 2022; it would make 22 percent cuts to state and local budgets in other areas, causing a reduction of $28 billion in state funding by 2014 and a total of $247 billion in cuts by 2022, CBPP found. That would cause decimating cuts to state education programs like Head Start and Title I (high poverty) schools; housing programs that provide rental assistance to the poor; health programs like the Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) grants and Community Health Centers; and public safety programs that help hire police officers and firefighters.
“In theory, policymakers could spare state and local funding and take all of the required cuts from purely federal areas of non-defense discretionary spending,” CBPP writes. “In reality, there is no chance that would occur, as it would entail extremely deep cuts” to programs like veterans’ health benefits and Social Security that aren’t likely to get the axe.
The Great Recession’s crunch on state and local budgets is already dragging down the American economy: in the last three years, more than 680,000 public sector workers, including hundreds of thousands of teachers and public safety officials, have lost their jobs, the worst three-year period for government job losses on record. That has increased unemployment and made it harder for states, cities, and their residents to recover from the recession. Rather than providing a “Path to Prosperity” for states, as Ryan asserts his budget will, the GOP’s insistence on deep spending cuts would only exacerbate the pain they are already feeling.