02.13.12

Comments Of Senator Patrick Leahy On President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Proposal

“Once again, President Obama rightly has called the nation to come together and chart a sustainable path forward to a better America.  Budgets are about priorities, and we must firmly keep Vermont’s and America’s values and priorities foremost in mind in our work ahead.       

“While there is no understating the difficulty of this challenge, Congress has a responsibility to set aside the temptation to delusion and illusion and the tendency toward unbridled partisanship.  There will be sharp disagreements along the way, but I firmly believe we can make key investments in our economy, our families and our future in a fiscally responsible way. 

“That is why I strongly support President Obama’s plan to forge new partnerships between community colleges and businesses to train two million workers for good-paying jobs in high-growth and high-demand industries.  The nation’s community colleges are a superb, underused resource.  This plan would help transform the problem of unskilled joblessness into a national asset, benefiting millions of families and strengthening our economy.  Even with an unemployment rate higher than we would like, I have heard from many Vermont firms about the difficulty of filling jobs that require technical skills.  To remain competitive we must find a way to train Vermonters and all Americans for these good-paying jobs in high-growth industries, from healthcare to advanced manufacturing, and from clean energy to information technology.

“As part of the effort to address budget deficits, I also support President Obama’s call for tax reform to simplify a loophole-ridden tax code that has allowed the wealthiest individuals and corporations to skirt their fair share for too long.  This is far more sensible and even-handed than balancing the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable.  Tax policy over the past decade has greatly benefitted millionaires and billionaires, widening the earnings gap that separates the top and the bottom of the American income spectrum.  Borrowing for two wars and handing out tax cuts to the wealthiest just one decade ago quickly evaporated the budget surplus and began digging us deeper into debt.

“I am concerned that President Obama follows in the footsteps of past presidents by proposing deep cuts in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.  For thousands of hard-pressed families in Vermont, LIHEAP is not a luxury but a survival tool.  The President’s request for $3 billion is $452 million below current funding, which already falls far short of these pressing needs.  I will continue to work to remedy this gap as Congress makes budget decisions in the months ahead.”

On The Budget’s Impact On The Crime Victims Fund

[The administration’s FY2013 budget proposal supports important criminal justice, law enforcement and victim assistance programs at the Department of Justice.  However it proposes using funds set aside in the Crime Victims Fund to support a number of these programs.  Senator Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has been a longtime leader in Congress in protecting the Crime Victims Fund, which is supported not by taxpayer dollars but by fines and penalties paid by convicted federal offenders.  Following are his comments about the budget plan’s recommendations for the Crime Victims Fund:]

“The economic challenges facing the country, coupled with the escalating costs of the federal prison population, have made it increasingly difficult for the Department of Justice to continue federal support for vital criminal justice programs that benefit crime victims and support state and local law enforcement efforts across the country.

“I am especially troubled that the Crime Victims Fund is being called upon to make enormous sacrifices.  I have been working with crime victim advocates, the Vice President’s office and OMB for the past two years to construct an appropriate initiative.  I strongly believe that any decision-making concerning the Fund must include Congress and the victims for whom the Crime Victims Fund is dedicated.  I know from personal experience as a prosecutor that the hardships that victims face in crime’s wake are real, they are painful, and they often are urgent. When Congress created the Crime Victims Fund, we made a promise to ensure a steady stream of funding to help victims of crime put their lives back together, regardless of the ups and downs of yearly budgets. We must keep that promise. 

“While I am pleased that the administration’s budget reflects a continued commitment to important programs – including the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program, the Second Chance Act, the COPS program, the assistance programs authorized by the Violence Against Women Act, and others – I want to be sure that we balance the needs of all those who are assisted by these vital programs, as well as the needs of crime victims.  I have reached out to the White House on this issue and hope we can work out a comprehensive long term solution.”

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