NACo voices federal budget deficit concerns
Eliminating the federal deficit should not come at the expense of funding for programs needed by local governments, according to letters sent by the Washington-based National Association of Counties’ (NACo) to President Obama and Congressional leaders. NACo is tracking suggestions by the Republican Study Committee to make cuts to several programs that benefit local governments, including eliminating $45 billion in remaining stimulus funds and $4.5 billion from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.
The letters, sent on Feb. 3, voice NACo’s concerns that federal budget deficit reduction talks will focus too much on reductions to domestic, discretionary spending programs that will affect the American people. The letters outline four key points counties are urging the president and
Congress to consider while addressing the deficit:
• The budget deficit cannot be resolved by only cutting domestic, non-military discretionary programs;
• Federal assistance to state and local governments will help mitigate further layoffs;
• Federal investment in state and local infrastructure produces private sector jobs; and
• Deficit reduction should not be accomplished by shifting costs to counties, imposing unfunded mandates, or pre-empting county programs or taxing authority.
“When a recession occurs or the economy falters and there is high unemployment, services at the county level are needed most,” NACo President Glen Whitley and Executive Director Larry Naake wrote in the letters. “Historically, there is a greater need for social services, health care, counseling, job training and local economic development during times like we are facing now. Domestic, discretionary programs are critical to the ability of counties to carry out their responsibilities as service providers for both the federal and state governments.”
The association supports maintaining federal financial assistance for county programs at the 2010 fiscal year levels. “Counties will participate in addressing the challenges our nation is facing and expect the federal government and Congress to do the same without drastically hurting the people we all serve,” Whitley and Naake wrote.
NACo also is following legislation in the Republican-controlled House that aims to reduce fiscal year (FY) 2011 federal spending to FY2008 levels, which would reduce most non-defense discretionary spending, other than homeland security, and which could affect programs counties rely on for regular operations. Although the resolution’s specifics will be set by the appropriations subcommittees, an article in NACo’s newsletter lists suggestions from the Republican Study Committee, which represents most of the Republican conference, including:
• The elimination of all remaining “stimulus” funding of $45 billion.
• A repeal of the Medicaid FMAP increase in the “State Bailout” to save $16.1 billion.
• $4.5 billion in cuts from CDBG.
• Cutting Department of Energy weatherization grants for states by $530 million.
• $2.5 billion in cuts to Intercity and High-speed Rail Grants.
Although the Senate is unlikely to sustain most of the cuts, according to the NACo article, there is substantial pressure to cut federal spending, and NACo legislative staff are working to protect programs affecting county governments.