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The FY 2014 Murray Senate Budget: A Better Path Forward for Women and Families

You may have heard that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released his FY 2014 budget plan this week – and that it is bad news for women and families. Like Chairman Ryan’s previous budget plans, the latest version would make deep cuts to programs that women and their families depend on while giving lavish tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans and corporations.

The good news is that Chairman Ryan’s budget is not the only plan circulating on Capitol Hill this week. Yesterday afternoon, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) released her own budget blueprint for FY 2014. In stark contrast to the Ryan budget, the Murray budget proposes new investments in early childhood programs, largely protects core safety net programs (although it includes some cuts to funding for health care programs that could be worrisome), and advances tax fairness. For example, Chairman Murray’s budget:

  • Supports key investments in our future. The Murray budget calls for new investments to expand access to pre-K, child care, Head Start, Early Head Start and home visiting services for parents with young children, helping more children prepare to succeed in school while giving more parents the support they need to work. The budget also invests in measures to speed up the economic recovery, including a $100 billion fund to support job training and infrastructure projects that would create new jobs and strengthen the economy.  
  • Protects critical supports for vulnerable families and individuals.  Chairman Murray’s budget protects Social Security and most core safety net programs, which are particularly important to women because they face a greater risk of poverty than men at all stages of their lives. The budget also permanently extends improvements to the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit that lift millions of women and children out of poverty each year. And it secures funding to fully implement the Affordable Care Act, ensuring that women will have greater access to affordable health insurance and preventive care services.
  • Asks the wealthiest Americans and corporations to contribute to deficit reduction. By closing corporate and individual tax loopholes, the Murray budget would make the tax code fairer and raise $975 billion in revenue from the individuals and corporations with the greatest ability to contribute.
  • Replaces across-the-board cuts with revenue increases as well as spending cuts. Chairman Murray’s budget replaces the automatic, across-the-board cuts known as “sequestration” with a 50/50 mix of revenue increases and targeted spending cuts. The total spending cuts in the budget are equal to the revenue increases ($975 billion). About $240 billion would come from reductions in defense spending, and another $240 billion would be saved due to lower interest payments on the national debt.

About $500 billion would come from cuts to domestic programs, including $275 billion in savings from federal health programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. It will be very important to ensure that these and other cuts are implemented in a way that does not hurt women and their families – especially since the budget maintains the discretionary spending caps established by the Budget Control Act of 2011, which bring federal spending on non-defense discretionary programs (like Head Start, child care, K-12 education, domestic violence prevention, and job training) to its lowest level in over 50 years.

Given the slow pace of recovery from the recession, persistently high poverty, and growing income inequality that we face today, I would have liked to see Senator Murray’s budget invest even more in helping families get back on their feet and get ahead. To support those investments, more revenue could be raised from the richest among us; even if the $975 billion in revenue that the Murray budget calls for were enacted, spending cuts would account for nearly two-thirds of the deficit reduction enacted since 2011. Nonetheless, Chairman Murray’s budget provides a clear alternative to Chairman Ryan’s budget – an alternative that is far better for women and their families, and one that I hope a majority in Congress will support.

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