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Monday, April 09, 2012

Mailbag: Tammy Baldwin Writes:

Congress recently voted on a federal budget for the coming fiscal year. Our nation’s budget is a statement of our priorities and values. In these challenging economic times, I believe our highest priorities must be job creation, economic growth, and protecting the middle class. Consequently, I supported a balanced approach to meeting our nation’s fiscal challenges—one that would preserve the Medicare guarantee, provide tax relief for working families, and make the investments necessary to keep our country moving forward. Unfortunately, the House of Representatives passed a budget introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan that does not reflect these priorities. This budget ends the guarantee of Medicare and replaces it with a plan that would provide vouchers for the purchase of insurance which would not keep pace with rising medical costs. It would also make deep cuts in education and investments in roads, bridges, and transit, as well as slash investments in science and medical research. At the same time, the budget would protect the $4 billion in tax breaks oil companies receive every year, while allowing interest on student loans to double this July.1 The plan also includes the elimination of unspecified tax deductions which could extend to many deductions relied upon by middle class families, including those for mortgage interest and charitable contributions. By not specifying these cuts, the budget hides its true impact on Wisconsin’s middle class families. Yet, it would extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest and provide an additional tax break to those earning the most. Under the plan, people earning more than $1 million a year would see an additional $265,000 in new tax cuts on top of the current Bush tax cuts.2 My test for a budget proposal is whether it is good for middle class Wisconsin families. The Ryan Budget fails that test. I supported the Democratic Budget alternative that included investments in infrastructure, tax credits for job creation, and initiatives to promote the hiring of veterans. It would have invested in expanding life-saving medical research, strengthening innovative manufacturing, and reducing our dependence on foreign oil. Small businesses also would have gained increased access to Small Business Administration loans under the plan. In addition, the Democratic Budget included two provisions I have championed in Congress. First, the plan incorporated my legislation to implement the “Buffett Rule” to require millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share in taxes and help reduce our deficit. Second, the plan would have prevented an increase in the interest rate for some student loans. The Republican Budget will allow the Stafford Loan interest rate to double, from 3.4 to 6.8 percent on July 1, 2012. I offered an amendment to that budget to keep the loan rate as is, just like in the Democratic Budget, but my amendment was blocked. The Ryan Budget presents a clearly different path for the country than the budget I support. I invite you to review the contrasting plans below and decide for yourself which road forward you prefer. I welcome your opinion.

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