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Funding for Vt. high speed rail, affordable housing on congressional chopping block

Source: VT Digger, April 12, 2011, by Anne Galloway

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. Photo by Terry J. Allen “Four days after congressional leaders struck a budget deal with President Barack Obama, U.S. Senate and House staffers are scrambling to figure out how the continuing resolution target of $38.5 billion in reductions to fiscal year 2011 federal spending will impact the states. Congress will vote on the continuing resolution bill on Thursday, and there’s a good chance that details about how the cuts will affect programs on the state and local level will still be unknown, according to the offices of Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt. Budgetwriters have taken a top-down approach and assigned total amounts for reductions without clearly defining the source of the cuts in each area. Once the congressional cuts have been approved for a given agency, federal bureaucrats will then take on the task of determining what programs should be jettisoned. According to a statement from Sanders’ office, half of the $38.5 billion in cuts come from education, healthcare, and employment services. Defense spending, on the other hand, would be increased by $5 billion under the proposal. Congressional office staffers say the continuing resolution agreement for fiscal year 2011 will set a new baseline for the fiscal year 2012. Much deeper cuts are anticipated in the annual appropriations bill. Leahy, Sanders and Welch have all vociferously opposed the reductions targeted by the House GOP. In remarks to the Gannett news service on Friday night, Leahy described the Tea Partiers pushing the cuts arrogant ideologues. Welch told the Bennington Banner the latest iteration of the temporary budget fix “raises the question as to whether this is more about an ideological problem.” More than 2200 Vermonters participated in a town meeting phone call on the subject Monday night. Sanders said he won’t vote for the continuing resolution when the temporary budget solution for fiscal year 2011 comes up for a vote on Thursday. He said in a statement: “Today, in order to reduce deficits that Republicans helped create, they now are slashing programs of enormous importance to working families, the elderly, the sick and children. At a time when the gap between the very rich and everybody else is growing wider, this budget is Robin Hood in reverse. It takes from struggling working families and gives to multi-millionaires. This is obscene.” Though the situation is still fluid, information is beginning to emerge about Vermont’s share of the reductions. For the most part, the cuts will not affect the state budget directly, but funding for programs like weatherization and community action councils, and projects that the state counts on – such as affordable housing and wastewater treatment plants – will take a hit…” Full Story: Funding for Vt. high speed rail, affordable housing on congressional chopping block PDF of Story: Funding for Vt. high speed rail, affordable housing on congressional chopping block

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